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A Ingelique 

ALngSlique and the King 


Angelique and the King 



William Heinema nn Ltd 


Published in France by Editions de Trevise 1959 
First published in Great Britain i960 

Copyright © i960 by Opera Mundi 
Translation by Monroe Steams 
All rights reserved 

Printed in Great Britain 
by The Windmill Press Ltd 
Kingswood, Surrey 



'J. Tie Court 

page 3 

3P A R T T W O 

F^h xlzFF e 

page i 13 


The JFCing 

page 209 


The time of action in this novel is roughly 1667 to 167 5. 

The following is a list of the principal characters. Those marked with 
an asterisk are known more or less prominently to history, but memoirs 
of die period indicate that almost every person mentioned here in con- 
nection with the Court of Louis XIV actually existed, as did the events 
and politics. 

Angelique . Born Angelique de Sance, of a family of the minor nobility 
in Poitou, she first married Comte Joffrey de Peyrac of the Casde of 
Gay Learning in Toulouse, by whom she had two sons, Florimond and 
Cantor. Joffrey was condemned to death at the stake by Louis XIV on 
a trumped-up charge of sorcery. Angelique, reduced to beggary, became 
a member of the Paris vagabonds whose headquarters were the Court of 
Miracles in the Saint-Denis quarter. Later, under the name of Madame 
de Morens, she opened a chocolate shop with David Chaillou whereby 
she made a great deal of money which she invested shrewdly, became 
extremely rich, and friendly with literary Parisian society. Having been 
in love with her cousin Philippe since they were both children, she more 
or less blackmailed him into marrying her, thus gaining a position in 
the high nobility of the realm of France. 

Baktiari Bey . The ambassador to France of the Shah of Persia. 

Barbe. The nurse of Angelique’s children, a friend from her days of 

Barcarole . Queen Marie-Therese’s dwarf, and a friend of Angelique’s 
from her Court of Miracles days. 

Binet. Louis XIV’s wig-maker and hairdresser, introduced to the 
monarch by Angelique, whose coiffeur he had also been. 

Bontemps . Louis XIV’s confidential valet. 

Bossuet* (1627-1704). One of the most famous preachers of all time. 
His funeral orations for ‘Madame’ and for the Prince de Conde are 
among the world’s classics of oratory. Louis XIV made him a Bishop and 
entrusted the education of the Dauphin to him. 

Cantor. Angelique’s younger son by Joffrey de Peyrac. 

Colbert* (1619-1683). First an apprentice in a draper’s shop, Jean 
Baptiste Colbert subsequently entered the French War Office. He be- 
came Comptroller of France in 1665. Under his supervision the country’s 
revenues doubled. He greatly stimulated, French industries, established 


foreign colonies, and encouraged trade. Possibly his greatest achieve- 
ment was the creation of a powerful French Navy. In many ways he 
founded a whole new epoch in France. 

Condi*, Prince Louis (IT) de (1621-1686) was known as ‘the Great 
Conde’. In the civil wars of the Fronde, the details of which are among 
the most complicated of all political struggles, he fought against the 
Royal Party successfully until finally defeated by Turenne in 1658. The 
following year he was pardoned and entered the military service of the 
then unifi ed France, winning many campaigns. A brilliant strategist 
and sincere patron of the arts, he was one of the greatest men of his 

De Gesvres . High Chamberlain of Louis XIV. 

Duchesne . Steward of Louis XIV. 

Flipot. Angelique’s lackey. A friend from her Court of Miracles days. 

Florimond . Angelique’s elder son by Jofirey de Peyrac. 

Fouquet* (1615-1680). Comptroller of France from 1659 to 1661, when 
his extravagance, maladministration and dishonesty were revealed by 
Colbert. Tried unfairly, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in the 
fortress of Pignerol. He was a deadly enemy of Jofirey de Peyrac, 
Angelique’s first husband. 

Gilandon. The surname of two impoverished spinsters Angelique 
employed as ladies-in-waiting or chaperones. 

Grcmde Mademoiselle , La*, Madame de Montpensier, (1627-1693). 
The daughter of Gaston d’Orleans, Louis XIII’s brother and the son of 
Henri IV; hence the first cousin of Louis XIV, against whom she fought 
in the wars of the Fronde. Later pardoned, she lived at Louis XIV’s 
Court, where she fell in love with Lauzun. 

Great Coesre (Wood-Bottom). A legless, loathsome cripple who 
reigned as King of the Paris underworld in the Court of Miracles, and 
was once a protector of Angelique. 

Javotte. Angelique’s maid. One of her friends from her Court of 
Miracles days. 

Joffrey de Peyrac , Comte de Toulouse. Angelique’s first husband. 

Lauzun *, Peguilin de (1632-1723), a Gascon soldier and minor noble- 
man, a favourite of Louis XIV and an old friend of Angelique. History 
testifies to his romance with Mademoiselle de Montpensier (La Grande 
Mademoiselle), Louis XIV’s cousin. 

La Valliere*, Louise de (1644-1710), mistress of Louis XIV from about 
1660 until she was completely supplanted by Madame de Montespan in 
1674. Known as ‘the little one’, she was shy and retiring, but was famous 
for her winning personality. 


La Violette. Steward and valet of Philippe du Plessis-Belliere. 

Lesdiguihres . A young priest employed by Angelique as supervisor of 
her sons’ education. 

Louis XIV* (1638-1715), King of France from 1643, when his father, 
Louis XIII, died, leaving the government in the hands of his widow 
Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin. In 1660 he married Marie- 
Therese of Spain, and after the death of Mazarin early the following 
year, took the reins of the kingdom into his own hands. He became 
something of a despot, but raised France from anarchy to a world 
power through his skilful employment of ministers and militarists wiser 
than he. His Court was so brilliant, and he stimulated art and literature 
to such a degree that he ranks among the greatest monarchs of history 
and probably deserved the title of 'Sun King’. His character is best 
expressed in his famous remark: ‘L’etat dest moi * (1 am the State’). 

Louvois* (1641-1691). Minister of War under Louis XIV, and son of 
Le Tellier, Chancellor and Secretary of War. A ruthless militarist, he 
was largely responsible for the efficient organisation and operation of 
the French Army, and many of his measures still obtain in it. 

Madame* (Henriette d’Angleterre), daughter of Charles I, brother 
of Charles II of England, married to Philippe, Due d’Orleans, brother 
of Louis XIV, to whom she bore two daughters. 

Malbrant. Fencing-master of Ang 61 ique’s sons. An old man, he was 
nicknamed ‘Swordthrust’ because of his preoccupation with all kinds of 

Marie-Therese* daughter of Philip IV of Spain and Queen of Louis 
XIV of France from 1660 to her death in 1683. 

Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin: 1622-1673). Probably the greatest 
of French playwrights. One of his finest plays, Tartuffe (1664), referred 
to in the novel, was a bitter satire on religious hypocrites. 

Monsieur *. Philippe Due d’Orleans (1640-1671), brother of Louis XIV 
and founder of the existing House of Orleans. 

Montausier* (1610-1690). A Huguenot who fought on the royal side 
in the wars of the Fronde, and was later made a Duke and served as 
guardian of the Dauphin from 1668 to 1679. Austerely pious and 
brusque, he is thought to be the model for Moliere's Le Misanthrope, 
but he was also a patron of literature. 

Montespan*, Athenats de (1641-1707), bom a Mortemarte of Poitou, 
was married to a minor Gascon noble, Pardaillan de Montespan. In 
1 668 she became Louis XIV’s mistress, and ruled as uncrowned queen 
of France. 

Ninon de Lenclos* (1616-1706), a Parisian courtesan of great and last- 

mg beauty, famous for her wit and her influence over the great of her 
time in art, literature and politics. 

Parajonc, Philonide de. A ‘ precieuse or bluestocking intellectual, of 
Paris. In the reign of Louis XIII the ‘precieuses 9 held literary salons in 
an attempt to refine the somewhat crude manners of that time. Their 
efforts, however, were often more affected and silly than inspirational. 
They indulged in artificial, ‘poetic’ language, and by the time of this 
novel were considered passe. 

Philippe , Marquis du Plessis-Belli&re, Angelique’s second husband, 
was one of the great nobles of France, dearly beloved by Louis XIV, 
whose Master of the Hunt he was, as well as a Marshal of France. 
Handsome, but cold and something of a misogynist, he bitterly resented 
having to marry Angelique, whom he abused on their wedding night 
at his Castle of Plessis. 

Racan, Gaspard de . Tutor to Angelique’s sons. 

Rakoczy . An exiled Hungarian prince and revolutionary. 

Roger. Angelique’s steward or majordomo. Like most others of his 
profession at that time, he was a Swiss. 

Scarron *, Frangoise (1635-1719), was married first to the deformed but 
highly respected poet Scarron, who died in 1660, leaving her in great 
poverty. She was befriended by Madame de Montespan, who engaged 
her as governess for the children she bore the King. 

Scudery *, Madeleine de (1607-1701). A French novelist prominent in 
society and literary circles. Her most famous work, Le Grand Cyrus , 
gives a fine picture of the French aristocracy of the period. 

Sdvigne*, Madame de (1626-1696). A famous wit of the period of 
the novel, best-known for the brilliant, charming letters she wrote her 
daughter, who lived in Provence, about life in Paris and in the Court 
of Louis XIV. These are valuable source material for seventeenth- 
century social history. 

Solignac. High Chamberlain of Queen Marie-Therese, and a leader 
of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament, a zealous, puritanical society 
devoted to correcting loose morals. 

Therese. Angelique’s maid, and a friend from her days of poverty. 

Vivonne . Brother of Madame de Montespan and an Admiral of the 
French fleet. 


P A. RX I 

I ~Z /ze CotAirt 


Angelique could not fall sound asleep. Exciting visions of the thrilling 
events the next day would bring danced through her head. She was like 
a child on Christmas Eve. 

Twice she had got up and struck a flint to light the candle so that she 
could feast her eyes again on the two costumes that lay on chairs near 
her bed - one for the next day's royal hunt, the other for the grand ball 
that would follow it. 

The hunting costume really pleased her. She had sent the tailor pre- 
cise instructions for giving the pearl-grey velvet jacket a masculine cut 
that would set off the delicate curves of her youthful figure. Her huge 
cavalier's hat was of white felt, and ostrich plumes cascaded over it like 
a snowdrift. But what delighted her most of all was the stock. Of the 
very latest style, it would, she fully expected, attract the attention and 
excite the curiosity of the great Court ladies. 

After making several turns about her neck the yards of starched linen 
were fastened into a big knot. The ends, intricately embroidered with 
seed pearls, fanned out like the wings of a butterfly. The idea for it had 
come to her just the night before. For an hour she had posed before her 
looking-glass trying on at least ten of the loveliest cravats that the draper 
of the Golden Casket linen shop had brought her, before she finally 
decided to tie one in an even more dashing style than the cavaliers 
themselves. She knew that a woman's face does not show off to the best 
advantage above the severe lines of a riding habit's collar. This billowing 
white wave beneath her chin would give the whole outfit a feminine 

Back in bed, she tossed and turned. She thought of ringing for a cup 
of verbena tea to soothe her into sleep, for a few hours of sleep she must 
have in order to face the heavy schedule of the morrow. In the late 
morning the hunt would meet in the forest of Fausse-Repos. Like all 
the other guests of the King who were coming from Paris, Angelique 
would have to start out very early to meet the parties coming from 
Versailles at the crossroads of Les Boeufs at the appointed time. There, 
in the heart of the forest, were stables to which the aristocrats sent their 
saddle horses long in advance so that the mounts would be completely 
fresh for the long chase after the fleet stags. Earlier in the day Angelique 
had seen to it that her precious Ceres was sent there with two grooms. 
She had paid a thousand pistoles for that pure-blooded Spanish mare. 


Once more she arose and lit the candle. There was no doubt about 
it, her ball gown was a total success - a flame-coloured satin with a cloak 
more lustrous than clouds at sunrise, and a bodice embroidered with 
tiny mother-of-pearl flowers. For jewels she had chosen pink pearls. 
They would dangle in clusters from her ears, and a string of them was 
to entwine her neck and shoulders in three great strands. A tiara in the 
form of a crescent moon would adorn her hair. 

All these she had got from a jeweller she fancied because he entranced 
her with his tales of the warm seas that once had bathed these pearls, 
the intricate bargainings by which he had acquired them, the long 
travels they had made sewn into packets of silk that passed from Arab 
trader to Greek to Venetian. He could quintuple their value in her eyes 
simply by his skill in making every pearl seem fabulously rare, as if it 
had been secretly stolen from the gardens of the gods. 

In spite of the fortune it had cost her to possess these treasures, 
Angelique had never had one of those agonising second thoughts that 
so often follow a vain and wildly extravagant purchase. She gazed at 
them ecstatically as they lay in their white velvet cases on her bedside 

She had an insatiable sensuous desire for all the exquisite and precious 
things of life. This was her vengeful compensation for the years of hard- 
ship she had known. Thank heaven she had put an end to those early 
enough for her still to have time to deck her youthful beauty in gorgeous 
jewels and lavish gowns, to surround herself with beautiful pieces of 
furniture, rich tapestries, ornaments fashioned by artists of the first 

Everything about her gave the impression of costliness but also of 
discrimination, displaying the simplicity of true sophistication wi .hout 
a trace of vulgarity. 

She had lost none of her zest for living. This was a constant wonder 
to her, and she secretly thanked God that her trials had not broken her 
spirit. She still had the enthusiasm of a child. 

She had seen far more of life than most young women of her age, yet 
had been less disillusioned by the world. And like a child she could 
still get a wondrous excitement out of little things. If you've never known 
what it is to be hungry, how can you savour the taste of a piece of warm 
fresh bread? And once you've walked barefoot over the cobblestones of 
Paris only at last to own pearls like these, how can you doubt that 
you're the happiest woman in the whole wide world? 


Once again she blew out the candle and, sliding down between the 
soft iris-damasked sheets, she stretched out, thinking: ‘What a joy to be 
rich and beautiful and young . . . !’ 

She did not add: ‘. . . and desirable/ Such a thought caused her to 
remember Philippe. A dark cloud passed over the face of her radiant 
happiness. She heaved a sigh from deep in her breast. 

‘Philippe! ’ 

How she despised him ! She recalled the two months that had gone 
by since her second marriage - to Philippe, Marquis du Plessis-Belliere - 
and the outrageous way in which she had been constrained by it. 

The day after Angelique was received at Versailles, the Court re- 
turned to Saint-Germain. She had had to go back to Paris. Naturally 
she thought it her right to live at her husband’s Hotel on the Faubourg 
Saint-Antoine. But after she had finally made up her mind to go there, 
she found die doors shut against her. The Swiss majordomo answered 
her protests by saying that his master was following the King and the 
Court, and that he had no instructions about her. She had had to go to 
her own Hotel de Beautreillis, which she had owned before her 
marriage. Since then she had been living there, waiting for another in- 
vitation from the King that would allow her to take her proper place 
at Court. But none had come, and she was beginning to get more and 
more worried about being ignored. 

Then one day Madame de Montcspan, whom she met at Ninon de 
Lenclos’, said to her: 

‘What’s happened to you, my dear? Have you lost your mind? You’ve 
not replied to three invitations of the King’s. Once you had a fever. 
Then some stomach disorder made you dizzy. Or else a pimple on your 
nose so spoiled your beauty that you did not dare appear. The King 
does not like such shabby excuses. He has a horror of people who are 
always ailing. You are going to displease him.’ 

That was how Angelique discovered that her husband, whom the 
King had asked to bring her to various entertainments, not only had 
failed to tell her of the invitations but had made her look absurd in the 
King’s eyes. 

‘At any rate, I warn you,’ Madame de Montespan concluded, ‘with 
my own ears I heard the King tell the Marquis du Plessis that he 
wanted to see you at Wednesday’s hunt. “Try to see,” he said rather 
wryly, “that Madame du Plessis-Belli&re’s health does not compel her 
to neglect us. Otherwise I shall have to take it upon myself to advise her 
by letter to go back to the country.” In other words, you are on the 
brink of disgrace.* 


Angelique was astonished, then furious. It did not take her long to 
weave a plan to unravel this web of deception. She would go straight to 
the meet and confront Philippe with the inescapable fact that there 
she was in person. If the King happened to question her, she would tell 
him the truth. Why not? In the presence of the King, Philippe would 
have to confess. 

With the greatest of secrecy she had had her new costumes made, 
had sent her mare ahead, and scheduled her departure in her own 
coach for daybreak. And now dawn would soon be there, and she would 
not have had a wink of sleep. She forced herself to shut her eyes , dismiss 
all thoughts from her mind, and glide softly into slumber. 

Suddenly her little griffon dog Arius, which was curled up into a 
ball under the counterpane, shivered, then sprang up on all fours and 
began to make hoarse sounds in his throat. Angelique caught hold of 
him and nestled him to her under the bedclothes. "Shh, Arius, be quiet 1’ 

The tiny animal continued to growl and tremble. For a second or two 
he stayed quiet, then leaped up again yapping sharply. 

"What’s the matter, Arius?’ Angelique was irritated. "What’s going 
on? Do you hear a mouse?’ 

She covered his muzzle with her hand and strained her ears to catch 
what it might have been that disturbed her pet. Yes, she detected a 
sound, so barely perceptible that she could not tell at once where it 
came from. It was like a hard object slipping over a highly polished 
surface. Arius kept up his growling. 

"Quiet, Arius, quiet!’ 

Oh, would she never get to sleep ! 

Suddenly behind her closed eyelids Angelique had a vision of dark 
hands emerging as if from ancient memories - the filthy, horny hands 
of the Paris thieves that in the thick darkness of night press against the 
panes as they silently slice through them with a concealed diamond. 

She sprang up in bed. Yes, that was what it was. The sound was com- 
ing from the direction of the bay window. Robbers ! 

Her heart was pounding so violently that all she could hear was 
its dull thudding. 

Arius wriggled away from her and began yapping again. She caught 
him and covered him up to stifle his barks. When she was finally able 
to strain her ears once more she had a distinct impression that there 
was someone in the room. The window slammed. "They’ had penetrated. 

"Who’s there?’ she shrieked, more dead than alive. 


No one answered. But footsteps were approaching from the alcove. 

‘My pearls ! ’ she thought. 

She thrust out her hand and seized a fistful of jewels. Almost at 
once the suffocating weight of a heavy blanket descended upon her. 
Sinewy arms wrapped themselves around her, paralysing her. She 
yelled into the thick folds of the cloth, squirming like an eel until she 
had freed herself. 

Catching her breath, she screamed: ‘Help I He-1 . . . 

Two thick thumbs dug into her throat, strangling her. Great crimson 
bombs exploded before her eyes. The frantic yipping of the dog grew 
dimmer, farther and farther away. 

1 am going to die/ she thought. ‘Strangled by a housebreaker I This 
is too insane ! Philippe I Philippe ! ' 

Everything went black. 

As consciousness returned to her, Angelique felt something round 
slip through her fingers and fall on the flagstones with a click. 

‘My pearls V 

Numbly she leaned over the edge of the pallet on which she was lying 
and saw die strand of pink pearls. She must have kept it clutched in 
her fist while they were carrying her off and bringing her to this strange 

Angelique ran her smarting eyes over the room. She was in a kind of 
cell into which the hazy light of dawn was slowly seeping through a 
little barred gothic window, dimming the yellow glow of a guttering 
oil lamp in a niche above her. The furnishings consisted of a rude 
table, a three-legged stool and the wretched cot made of a square of 
wood on which had been laid a horsehair mattress. 

‘Where am I? Whose hands am I in? What do they want of me?’ 

They had not stolen her pearls. Her bonds were gone, but the coarse 
blanket still lay on top of her thin pink silk nightgown. 

Angelique reached out and picked up the necklace. Mechanically she 
put it around her throat. Then she changed her mind and slipped it 
under the scratchy bolster. 

Outside a silvery bell began to tinkle. Another answered it. 
Angelique’s eyes lit on a small wooden crucifix hanging on the white- 
washed wall, a sprig of boxwood stuck behind it. 

‘A convent! I am in a convent/ 

She could just distinguish the faraway tones of an organ and voices 
chanting psalms. 


‘What is the meaning of all this? Oh, good God, how my throats 
hurts I’ 

For a moment she lay prostrate, her thoughts in a turmoil, hoping 
she could persuade herself that she was only having a bad dream and 
that at length the ridiculous nightmare would pass and she would 

The ringing sound of footsteps in the corridor made her sit up again. 
A man’s footsteps. Perhaps her kidnapper’s. Ah 1 She would not let him 
go without first dragging an explanation out of him. She had seen 
plenty of highwaymen and had no fear of them. If necessary, she would 
remind him that Wood-Bottom, the king of the underworld, was a 
friend of hers. 

Whoever it was stopped outside her door. A key turned in the lock, 
and the person entered. For a moment Angelique was dumbfounded at 
the sight of the man who stood before her. 

‘Philippe 1’ 

The appearance of her husband was the last thing she expected. For 
the whole two months she had been in Paris Philippe had not visited 
her a single time, not even paid her a formal call or otherwise remem- 
bered he had a wife. 

‘Philippe,’ she repeated. ‘Oh, Philippe, what a relief I Have you come 
to rescue me?’ 

An uncustomary frigidity in his glance chilled the emotion with 
which she had greeted him. 

He stood stock-still by the door, stunningly handsome in his high 
white leather boots and his dove-grey doeskin tunic with its silver braid. 
The curls of his scrupulously dressed blond wig trailed over his collar 
of Venetian lace. White plumes flowed over the brim of his grey velvet 

‘How is your health, Madame?’ he asked. ‘Good?’ 

It was as if he were greeting her in a drawing-room. 

‘I . . . oh, I don’t know what’s happened, Philippe,’ Angelique stam- 
mered. ‘Someone attacked me in my bedroom. They carried me off 
and brought me here. Who could have done such a thing?’ 

‘I shall be glad to tell you. It was La Violette, my steward.* 

Angelique was too astonished to speak. 

‘It was at my orders,’ he added obligingly. 

The truth burst upon Angelique. She jumped up. 

Still in her nightgown, she ran barefoot over the icy flagstones to 
the window and gripped the iron bars. The sun was rising on a fine 
summer’s day. The King and the Court would hunt the stag through 


the forest of Fausse-Repos, but Madame du Plessis-Belliere would not 
be among those present. 

Beside herself with rage, she turned on Philippe. ‘You did this to 
keep me from appearing at the royal hunt?’ 

'How quick you are!’ 

‘Don’t you know that His Majesty will never forgive me for this 
towering insult? He will send me back to the country.’ 

‘That is exacdy what I hope he will do.’ 

‘Oh, what a ... a fiend you areP 

‘Indeed? Well, this is not the first time a woman has honoured me 
with that title.’ 

Philippe laughed. His wife’s rage seemed to please his saturnine 

‘Not such a fiend as that, after all,’ he said. ‘I am going to have you 
confined in this convent so that you may find a new life through prayer 
and abstinence. God Himself can find no fault with that.’ 

‘How long must I be a penitent?’ 

‘We shall see . . . We shall see. A few days at least.’ 

‘Philippe, I ... I actually believe I hate you.’ 

He laughed louder than ever, his lips stretched back over his fine 
white teeth in a cruel grin. 

‘You are responding beautifully. It makes changing your plans worth 

‘Changing my plans ! Is that what you call it? Break into my house 
. . . kidnap me ! And to think that when that monster was strangling 
me, it was you I called out to for helpP 

Philippe’s laughter turned into a deep frown. He came close to her 
to inspect the bruises that spotted her throat. 

‘Damn The rascal went a litde too far. But I rather imagine he 
found his work cut out for him. He’s a fellow who does only what 
he’s told. I instructed him to be as subtle as possible so that he would 
not attract the attention of your household. He got in through the gate 
at the end of your orchard. Never mind, next time I’ll tell him not to 
be so rough.’ 

‘So you think there will be a next time?’ 

‘So long as you refuse to be tamed, yes. So long as you toss your 
wilful head and give me insolent answers and look for ways to disobey 
me. I am the Master of the King’s Hunt. I am used to handling 
ferocious bitches. They always end licking my hands.’ 

‘I would rather die,’ Angelique said savagely. ‘You would rather kill 
me, anyway.’ 


‘No, I prefer to make you my slave/ 

He fixed his hard blue eyes on her so penetratingly that she was 
forced to turn away. The duel promised to be a deadly one, but she had 
experienced others like it. She faced him defiantly again. 

‘You expect too much. What methods do you intend to use to get 
your way?’ 

‘Oh, I have plenty of little ways/ he said, pouting. ‘Lock you up, for 
example. How would you like to have your visit here extended? Or else, 
I could separate you from your sons/ 

‘You would not do that/ 

‘Why not? I can also cut off your food and reduce you to a bare sub- 
sistence diet, compel you to beg me for bread to keep yourself alive/ 

‘Now you are being silly. My fortune belongs to me/ 

‘All that can be arranged. You are my wife. A husband has absolute 
power. I am not so stupid that I can't find a means of having your 
money put in my name/ 

‘I will defend my rights/ 

‘Who will listen to you? I recall you used to have a facility for getting 
the King's ear, but after your social blunder of not putting in an 
appearance today I am afraid that will not do you any good. Now, on 
that note I shall depart and leave you to your meditations. I must not 
miss the unleashing of the pack. Is there anything else you would like 
to say to me?' 

‘Yes. I hate you with all my heart and soul.' 

‘That is nothing to what you will do. Some day you will pray for death 
to deliver you out of my power.' 

‘What are you getting out of all this?' 

‘The sweet pleasure of revenge. You have humiliated me so deeply 
that I could cheerfully see you weep and implore my mercy and turn 
into a half-crazed wretched creature in rags.' 

‘What a charming picture 1 Why not the torture chamber while 
you’re at it - brand the soles of my feet with red-hot irons, tire rack, 
thumbscrews . . . ?' 

‘No, I shall not go that far. Perhaps I derive a certain pleasure from 
the beauty of your body.' 

‘Indeed? Who would ever guess it? You certainly do not show it/ 

Philippe had almost reached the door. He turned towards her, his 
eyes half-closed. 

‘So you are complaining about that, eh, my dear? What a happy 
surprise ! Have I disappointed you then? Haven't I made a cosdy enough 
sacrifice on the altar of your charms? Have you so few lovers to worship 


you that you need a husband’s devotion? So far as that goes, I had a 
distinct impression that you were rather loath to perform the duties of 
your wedding night. But I could have been mistaken.’ 

‘Get out, Philippe, let me alone.’ With terror Angelique watched him 
come towards her. She felt naked and defenceless in her filmy night- 

‘The more I look at you, the less I want to leave,’ he said. 

He clasped her to him, pressing her close against his body. She shud- 
dered, her throat too tight to release the nervous sobs that choked her. 

‘Let me go, let me go, I beg you.’ 

‘I love to hear you beg.’ 

He lifted her like a wisp of straw and let her drop on the nun’s pallet. 

‘Philippe, have you forgotten we are in a convent?’ 

‘So? Do you think two hours in this sanctimonious retreat have 
endowed you with a vow of chastity? You do not need to stand on 
on ceremony, I have always got a delicious sensation out of raping 

‘You are the lowest creature I have ever known.’ 

‘Your love talk is hardly the sweetest I have ever heard,’ he said, 
stripping off his baldric. ‘You should spend more time in the drawing- 
room of the lovely Ninon. No more affectations, Madame. You remind 
me, quite happily, of the duty I owe you, and I intend to perform it.’ 

Angelique shut her eyes. She had ceased to resist him, knowing from 
experience what a struggle would cost her. Passively she endured the 
humiliating and repulsive embraces he forced upon her painfully as a 
kind of punishment. 

All she had to do, she reflected, was behave like ill-mated women - 
and, Lord knows, their name is legion - who endure their obligations 
by thinking of their lovers or saying their rosary while they suffer the 
attentions of the pot-bellied old man their greedy father has bound 
them to. 

Such, obviously, was not the case with Philippe. He was neither 
middle-aged nor pot-bellied, and it was Angelique herself who had 
wanted to marry him. Well she might repent of that now, but it was 
too late. She would have to learn to accept the master she had given 
herself to. 

What a brute he was ! For him a woman was only a thing to be crassly 
pursued for the gratification of his physical desires. But he was a lithe, 
muscular brute just the same, and in his arms it was hard for her to let 
her thoughts wander to someone else, or to say her prayers. He 
charged to the attack like a seasoned warrior under the command of 

lust. The thrill of battle, the thirst for slaughter had long accustomed 
him to do without any tenderness. 

Nevertheless, as he released her he made a slight gesture that she 
later believed she must have imagined. Placing his hand on her smooth 
upturned neck at the very spot where the gross fingers of the steward 
had left their livid traces, he had let it linger there for a moment as if in 
a slight caress. 

Then he stood erect, surveying her with a mean sneer. 

'Well, my pretty, it would seem you are growing wiser. Just as I 
said you would. Soon you will be cringing. Meanwhile I wish you a 
pleasant stay within these thick walls. You can weep and moan and 
curse as much as you like. No one will hear you. The nuns have orders 
to bring you food, but not to let you set your foot outside this cell, 
and they have an excellent reputation for being efficient jailers. You 
are by no means the only unwilling boarder in this convent. Enjoy your- 
self, Madame. Perhaps this evening you will hear the hunting horns 
of the King as they pass by. I shall order them to blow a fanfare just 
for you alone/ 

Then with a burst of mocking laughter he was gone. How hateful his 
laughter was 1 He knew only the laughter of revenge. 

Angelique remained motionless under the rough, heavy blanket on 
which lingered the masculine scent of jasmine water and new leather. 
She was tired and listless. The strain of the night, the vexation of 
the quarrel, the demands of her husband had sapped her energies. Over- 
powered as she had been, she had no more strength of her own. Her 
body lapsed into a deep state of blissful relaxation. 

Unexpectedly she felt sick at her stomach. The sour taste of bile was 
in her mouth, and sweat broke out on her forehead. She struggled for a 
moment against this rebellious sickness, then fell back on the pallet 
more dispirited than ever. 

That touch of faintness betokened the symptoms that for a month 
she had tried to ignore. Now she had to face the facts. The dreadful 
wedding night at Plessis-Belliere, which she could not think of without 
flushing with shame, had borne fruit. She was pregnant. She was carry- 
ing Philippe's child, the child of that man who hated her and had sworn 
to torture her with his revenge until he drove her insane. 

For a moment Angelique felt so defeated that she was tempted to give 
up the struggle and succumb. If only she could sleep 1 Sleep might 
give her courage again. 


But this was no time for sleep. It was already late in the morning. 
She would have aroused the King's displeasure and be for ever banished 
from Versailles, even from Paris. 

She sprang up, ran to the door and pounded with her fists on its 
thick wood panels until her knuckles were raw. 

‘Open the door/ she shrieked. ‘Let me out I* 

Now the sun was flooding the cell. At that very moment the King’s 
hunting party would be gathering in the Cour d’Honneur. The carriages 
of his guests would be filing through the Porte Saint-Honore on their 
way from Paris to join it. Angelique alone would be absent from the 
grand rendezvous. 

1 must be there ! I must be there ! If the King turns against me, I am 
done for. Only the King can keep Philippe in line. I must get to the 
royal hunt, cost what it may! 

‘Did not Philippe mention that I could hear the hunting horns from 
my window? This convent must be near Versailles. Oh, I have got to 
get out of this place!’ 

But long as she paced the cell, she could find no solution. 

Finally she heard the dull echo of wooden shoes clomping down the 
corridor. She froze tensely, full of sudden hope. Then she stretched her- 
self out again on her pallet and feigned an attitude of not having a care 
in the world. 

A key turned in the lock, and a woman entered. She was not a nun, 
but apparendy a servant. She wore a linen bonnet and a corduroy gown, 
and she was carrying a tray. 

The visitor growled a surly ‘Good-morning/ and began unloading the 
tray on to the table. It was a skimpy meal - a jug of water, a bowl from 
which rose a faint odour of beans and bacon grease, a round loaf of 

Angelique watched the servant closely. Perhaps this woman would be 
the only contact she would have with the outside world for the entire 
day. She would have to take advantage of this meeting. 

The servant did not seem to be the usual fat, clumsy peasant type 
that generally cleans up around a convent. She was young and almost 
pretty. Her big black eyes were full of fiery spite, and she had a way of 
rolling her hips under the corduroy skirt that said a great deal about 
her previous employments. The practised eye of Angelique was no more 
mistaken about that than she was when she heard the oath the girl let 
out when she carelessly let a spoon slip off the tray. There was not a 
shred of doubt in Angelique’s mind but that here was one of the most 
amenable subjects of the Great Coesre, King of the Underworld. 


“Hello, Sister,” Angelique whispered. 

The woman whirled about. Her eyes popped as she saw Angelique 
make the gesture of recognition that was a password among the beggars 
of Paris. 

Tor God's sake! the girl exclaimed when she recovered from her 
astonishment. Tor God's sake 1 If I’d thought . . . They told me you 
were a real Marquise. Well, you poor kid, so you got caught by those 
dirty bastards of the Saint-Sacrement gang too? No luck, eh? Well, 
who could ever make a living with those vultures?' 

She sat down on the foot of the pallet, drawing her grey woollen shawl 
provocatively over her breasts. 

‘Six months I've been in this hole ! Don't mind if I giggle, it's as good 
as having a square meal to see you. It takes my mind off my troubles. 
What neighbourhood did you work?' 

Angelique made a vague gesture. ‘A little bit here and there - every- 

‘Whose doxy were you?' 


‘The Great Coesre ! By God, you must have been well taken care of. 
For a novice you certainly got to the top fast. And a novice you cer- 
tainly must have been. I never laid eyes on you before. What's your 

‘Beautiful Angel.' 

‘Mine’s Sunday. They gave me that name on account of my speciality. 
I only worked Sundays. I got the idea of doing that because I don't 
like to be the same as everyone else. It suited my work too. I just strolled 
up and down in front of the churches. My God, all those men so stiff 
and pious when they went in must have had plenty of time to think 
things over while they were saying their prayers. A nice girl after 
Mass -why not? When they came out, I had my pick of clients. What 
a racket all those sanctimonious old wives raised ! Anyone would think 
I was making everyone in Paris skip Mass. They just about killed them- 
selves trying to get me arrested. They even went to court to get me 
locked up. Hell must make a lot of money out of the rent those old 
prudes pay there. Just the same, they won. That's why I'm here now, 
with the Augustines of Bellevue. It's my turn to sing vespers tonight. 
But what about you? What happened to you?' 

‘A pimp wanted me to move in with him to save money. I was sup- 
porting him; he forced me to turn over all my earnings to him. To hell 
with it! He couldn't make me. But he took his revenge by sending me 
to a convent till I changed my mind.' 


It’s a hell of a world/ Sunday sighed, raising her eyes to heaven. ‘He 
must be a regular old miser. I heard him arguing prices with the 
Mother Superior. He wouldn't give her more than twenty ecus . That's 
what the Saint-Sacrement gang pays to keep me under lock and key. 
All you get to eat for that is peas and beans.' 

The bast . . / Angelique exclaimed, hurt to the quick by that last 
bit of information. 

Was there ever anyone more repulsive than Philippe I And a miser 
to boot ! Paying no more for her than for a common street-walker ! 

She grasped hold of Sunday's wrist. ‘Listen, you've got to get me 
out of here. I have an idea. Lend me your clothes and show me a gate 
that will let me out into the countryside.' 

The girl bluntly refused. ‘Nothing doing. Why should I help you 
escape when I can't get out myself?' 

‘This is different. The nuns know you. They would catch you and 
bring you back at once. No one has seen me close to except the Mother 
Superior. Even if they run across me in the corridors I can tell them 
some story or other.' 

‘You're right at that,' Sunday admitted. ‘When you arrived you were 
all tied up like a sausage. And it was the middle of the night too. 
They brought you straight up here.' 

‘You see, I have a good chance of making it. Hurry up, hand me 
your petticoat.' 

‘Not so fast, Marquise,' the girl growled. ‘ “Everything for me and 
nothing for anyone else" seems to be your motto. What good is this 
doing poor little Sunday, forgotten here behind all these bars by every- 
one? Perhaps an even deeper dungeon for me, eh?' 

‘What do you say to diis?' Angelique darted her hand under the 
bolster and. brought out the string of pink pearls. She held them up to 
the light. 

The shimmering splendour of their sunrise tints dazzled Sunday. She 
let out a long whistle. 

‘Those must be a fake, Sister,' she whispered. 

‘No. Just weigh them in the palm of your hand. Here, take it. It's 
yours if you'll help me.’ 

‘You're joking.' 

‘I give you my word. With that you'll have something to use to set 
yourself up with all the clothes and trappings of a princess when you 
get out of here.’ 

Sunday was letting the string of princely pearls slide from one hand 
into the other. 


‘Well, have you made up your mind?’ 

‘I’ll do it. But I have a better idea than yours. Wait, I’ll be right 
back/ She slipped the necklace into the depths of her skirt and went 

It seemed to Angelique that she was gone for an eternity. Finally 
she rushed in out of breath, a bundle of clothes under one arm, and a 
bucket hanging from the other. 

‘That poisonous old Mother Yvonne got hold of me. Whew ! I could 
have killed her. Now we have to hurry, because milking time will soon 
be over, when the country women come to get milk at the convent 
farm. You are going to put on these dairymaid's clothes, take this bucket 
and your little pillow, and go down the ladder from the pigeon roosts. 
Fll show you how. Once you're in the courtyard you can mix with the 
others and go out with them by the entrance. Just be sure to keep your 
milk well balanced on your head/ 

Sunday’s plan was easily effected. Less than fifteen minutes later 
Madame du Plessis-Belliere was walking along the dusty road intent on 
reaching Paris, which she could glimpse through the bright haze far 
away in the valley. She was clad in a short red-and-white striped skirt. 
Her bosom was confined by a black bodice. In one hand she carried 
the shoes that were too big for her, and with the other she steadied 
the bucket of milk that wobbled dangerously on the cushion atop 
her head. 

She had reached the courtyard just as the novices of the convent, who 
had milked the cows, were finishing the distribution of the milk to 
the women who would carry it to Paris and its suburbs. The old nun 
who checked the roll had asked who the latecomer was. Angelique 
put on her simplest manner and answered all her questions in her Poitou 
dialect. Since she insisted on contributing several sous that Sunday 
had generously advanced her, she had been given her milk and allowed 
to depart. 

Now she had to make haste .She was half-way between Versailles and 
Paris. After considering the matter she decided that to go directly to 
Versailles would be foolish. How could she appear before the King 
and the Court in a peasant's striped skirt? It would be better to go to 
Paris, get into her fine clothes, summon her coach and dash into the 
forest after the hunt. 

Angelique walked fast, but she felt as if she were making no dis- 
tance. The sharp pebbles hurt her bare feet, but when she put on the 
heavy shoes she stumbled and lost them. The milk kept splashing over 
her, and the litde pillow kept slipping. 

1 6 

At length a tinker in a cart going towards Paris caught up with her. 
She signalled him to stop. 

‘Could you take me along with you, friend?’ 

‘Indeed I could, sweetheart. Give me a little kiss and Fll take you 
all the way to Notre Dame/ 

‘Don’t count on it. I’m promised to a boy, and I keep my kisses for 
him. But I’ll give you this kettle of milk for your youngsters.’ 

‘All right, all right. It’s a swindle, but climb aboard, girlie. You’re 
as sensible as you’re pretty.’ 

The horse trotted right along. They were in Paris by ten o’clock. The 
tinker took Angelique to the river-bank. She sprinted to her hotel, 
where her porter almost fell over backward at seeing his mistress dis- 
guised as a peasant fresh from the country. 

Since morning, she learned, the servants had been baffled by the 
mysterious happenings in the house. To their consternation at finding 
their mistress vanished was added their astonishment at having the 
valet of Monsieur du Plessis-Belliere, an insolent giant of a man, appear 
and demand all the carriages and horses of the Beautreillis establish- 

‘All my horses 1 All my carriages ! ’ Angelique echoed. 

‘Yes, Madame.’ Roger, her steward, appeared on the scene to con- 
firm the story. He lowered his eyes, as shocked to see his mistress in 
her white bonnet and black bodice as if he had seen her stark naked. 

Angelique’s spirits revived. ‘What difference does it make? I’ll get a 
friend to help me. Javotte! Therese! Hurry up I I need a bath. Get 
my riding habit ready. And fix me up a picnic hamper with a good 
bottle of wine/ 

The clear tones of a clock counted off tire twelve strokes of noon. 
Angelique jumped. 

‘God knows what excuse Philippe will have invented to explain my 
absence to His Majesty ! That I have taken physic and am lying in bed 
in the agonies of nausea? That would be just like him, the beast ! And 
now, with no coach and no horses, how will I ever get there before 
sunset? Damn Philippe!’ 


‘Damn Philippe!’ said Angelique again as she crouched to stare out 
of the coach window at the deeply rutted road over which the shabby 
vehicle was slowly making its way. 


As they penetrated deeper into the forest, the roots of the huge oak 
trees writhed out of the mud like fat green snakes knotting in the very 
middle of the road - if indeed this little gully of muck could be called 
a road. It had already been churned up by the wheels of the carriages 
and the hooves of the horses that had just passed over it. 

‘We’ll never get there/ she groaned, turning to Philonide de Parajonc 
beside her. 

The old intellectual casually picked up her fan and poked with it at 
her wig which a shattering jolt had disarranged. ‘Don’t argue with fate, 
dear/ she said gaily. ‘Even the longest journey has an end/ 

‘That depends on how you travel and where you want to go and 
when you want to get there/ said Angelique with some spirit. ‘If you 
are trying to catch up with a royal hunt that you ought to have joined 
six hours ago, you have some reason for getting into a rage. I would 
even try walking if I thought I’d get there in time to hear the hounds 
called ofE. If the King notices my absence he will never forgive me 
for this final insult/ 

A violent jerk made the carriage creak ominously and threw them 
against each other. 

‘A plague on this dump cart!’ Angelique exclaimed. ‘It’s as rickety 
as an old fish barrel. The only thing it’s good for is a bonfire.’ 

Mademoiselle de Parajonc bridled. ‘I grant you my little flying 
pergola may lack the splendour of the magnificent carriages in your 
stables, but it seems to me you have been rather fortunate in finding 
it at your disposal this morning, particularly since your good husband 
thought it amusing to remove all your horses to some mysterious hiding 
place only he knows about/ 

Angelique sighed again. 

Where were her own royal purple whips with their golden stocks and 
their crimson tassels? And she had been so overjoyed at the thought of 
at last being invited to a royal hunt in the woods around Versailles ! 

She had pictured herself arriving at the meeting place of the guests 
of honour drawn by her own matched teams of ebony horses, and 
escorted by her three lackeys in their livery of blue and daffodil-yellow 
and the coachman and the postilion in red leather boots and plumed 
hats. She could hear the envious whispers: ‘Whose carriage is that?* 
‘Why, it’s the Marquise du Plessis-Belli&re’s. You know, the woman 
who . . . You seldom see her, her husband keeps her hidden away. 
He’s a tiger for jealousy. Still it looks as if the King has found out 
about her . . / 

She had made such careful preparations for this fateful day, resolved 


that nothing would stop her. Once she had got one toe inside the door 
of the Court, she would plant both feet there so solidly that Philippe, tiy 
as he might, could never dislodge her from it. All eyes would be turned 
on her beauty, her queenliness, her incomparable charm. She would 
struggle and push and cling like a barnacle to this world of her dreams, 
just as all the other ambitious parasites did. To hell with reticence or 
modesty I 

Mademoiselle de Parajonc snickered maliciously behind her fan. T 
don't have to be a sibyl to guess what you're thinking. I can see the 
light of battle in your eyes. What redoubt are you planning to storm - 
the King himself, or your husband?' 

Angelique shrugged. ‘The King? He is already spoken for and well 
guarded. He has the Queen, his legal wife, and an acknowledged 
mistress in Mademoiselle dc la Valliere, and plenty of others. As for 
my husband, what makes you think I should want to capture an 
objective that has already surrendered to me? Is it consistent, to use 
one of your own expressions, for two married persons to be interested 
in each other once the knot has been tied? How terribly bourgeois!' 

The old spinster clucked. T can't help thinking your charming 
Marquis is rather interested in you just the same.' She passed her 
tongue over her thin lips with relish. ‘Tell me all about it again, dearest. 
It's one of the most delicious stories I've ever heard. Is it really true there 
wasn't a single horse in your stables this morning when you wanted to 
start for Versailles? And half your servants vanished, too? Monsieur du 
Plessis must have tipped your domestics very handsomely. And to 
think you had not the faintest suspicion ! He was slyer than you this 
time, my sweet.' 

Another bump josded them. Javotte, the little chambermaid sitting 
opposite them on the narrow jump seat, was catapulted forward so 
that she crushed the golden gauze bow wihch held Angelique's riding 
crop to her sash. The frothy loops were torn to shreds. Out of sheer 
frustration Angelique slapped the girl and ordered her back to her 
precarious seat, where she crouched whimpering. 

Angelique was sorely tempted to apply the palm of her hand with 
equal violence to the heavily rouged cheeks of Philonide de Parajonc, 
who she knew was glorying in Angelique's mortification. Still it was this 
elderly bluestocking to whom she had fled in desperation when, thanks 
to Philippe's despicable trick, she could see no other way out of her 
dilemma than to borrow a carriage. And besides, Philonide de Parajonc 
was a good neighbour and fairly intimate friend. 

Madame de Sevigne was in the country. Ninon de Lenclos would 

have come to her aid, but her reputation as a courtesan had made her 
persona non grata at the Court, and her coach might have been easily 
recognised. Angelique’s other woman friends in Paris would either be 
at the hunt themselves, or, if not, too jealous to give her much hope of 
help from them. Mademoiselle de Parajonc was the only one she could 
turn to. 

Even so, frantic with impatience as she was, Angelique had had to 
wait while the old maid fluttered about trying to get into her sadly 
old-fashioned best gown. And while the maid with nerve-racking 
slowness combed out the tangles of Philonide’s best wig. And while 
the coachman cleaned the spots off his livery and shined up the varnish 
of the battered carriage. At last they had got on the road. But what a 

‘Oh, this -this trail ! 9 Angelique groaned. Once more she peered out 
into the dim tunnel of branches and tree trunks through which they 
were passing, hoping to glimpse a clearing in the dense woods. 

‘You’ll only catch a chill/ Mademoiselle de Parajonc remonstrated 
like an old nannie. ‘It will spoil your complexion, and that would be a 
shame. What kind of road did you expect? You can blame the King 
for making us traipse through the mire in places like this. Once upon 
a time nothing but herds of oxen went through here on their way to 
market from Normandy. That’s why they call it the Ox Road. Our late 
sovereign Louis XIII used to come here to hunt, but he never dreamed 
of making all the fine flower of his Court be dragged over these ruts. 
Louis the Chaste was a considerate King, simple and sensible/ 

She was interrupted by a deafening creaking of the carriage and more 
terrific jolting. 

The vehicle listed dangerously. Then something scraped against the 
boulders in the road, and a wheel came off, throwing the three pas- 
sengers on top of one another. 

Angelique was at the bottom of the heap, on the side of the missing 
wheel. Her first thought was one of despair for her gorgeous hunting 
costume, crushed now under the weight of Mademoiselle de Parajonc 
and Javotte. She did not dare budge to disentangle herself, for the 
window had been shattered and all she needed now was to get cut by 
splinters of glass and arrive drenched in blood. 

The other door opened and Flipot, the young lackey, thrust his foxy 
face at her. ‘It ain’t too bad, Marquise/ he panted. 

Angelique was in no condition to rebuke him for his disrespectful tone. 

‘Is the old dungeon still in one piece?’ 

‘It is/ Philonide answered cheerfully. She liked nothing better than 


such animated divertissements . 'Saucy boy, give me a hand and help 
me out of here.’ 

Flipot yanked with all his might. With the help of the coachman, who 
had succeeded in calming the two horses and had unharnessed them, 
the two women and the servant girl were soon standing in the muck of 
the road. They had got off without a scratch, but their situation was no 
less painfully hopeless than before. 

Angelique controlled her desire to burst into oaths. Getting angry 
would not help matters. This was the end! Now she not only would 
never get to the royal hunt, but never never never would she be able 
to return to Court. The King could hardly be expected to forgive this 
last refusal of his invitation. Should she write to him, or throw herself 
at his feet, or try to get Madame de Montespan to intervene for her, or 
the Due de Lauzun? But what excuse could she give? The truth of the 
matter, that the carriage was wrecked, would seem a very flimsy pretext - 
it was what everyone used when embarrassingly late. 

She sat down on a stump, so overwhelmed by these gloomy thoughts 
that she did not notice a small band of horsemen approaching. 

'Hey, here comes somebody/ Flipot whispered. 

In the silence of the forest the only sound was that of the horses 
approaching at a walk. 

'Merciful God!’ murmured Mademoiselle de Parajonc. ‘Highway- 
men I We are lost!’ 

Angelique raised her eyes. The deep shadows of the forest road did 
nothing to improve the menacing aspect of the newcomers. 

They were tall men and lean and swarthy. Their eyes were dark and 
their black moustaches and beards were of a style that had not been 
encountered for years in the Ile-de-France. The braid on their faded 
blue uniforms was tarnished, and dangled unsewn. The feathers in 
their hats drooped scrawnily. Their coats were tattered. Still, almost 
every one of them wore a sword. At the head of the troop were two jolly- 
looking fellows carrying ornate banners that were none the less tom 
and full of holes. They had obviously seen service in many hot battles. 

Some of the band marched on foot carrying pikes and muskets. These 
passed by the overturned coach without giving it a glance, but the 
first rider, who seemed to be the chief, stopped before the women 
huddled together with their servants. 

‘ ’Sdeath, my fine friends ! God Mercury, who protects travellers, seems 
to have deserted you most shamefully/ 

Unlike his companions, he seemed well enough fed, but the loose- 
hanging folds of his tunic indicated that he too must have lost a good 


deal of weight. When he lifted his hat, his sunburned face was jovial. 

His singsong accent betrayed his origins at once. Angelique smiled 
sweetly at him, and mustering her charm, said: ‘You must be from 
Gascony, sir/ 

‘You don’t miss anything, do you, oh loveliest of forest nymphs? Now, 
what can we do for you?’ 

‘Sir/ she said quickly, ‘you can do a great deal for us. We were sup- 
posed to join the King’s hunt, but we met with an accident. There’s 
no question of trying to get that old coach going again, but if some of 
you would take my companion and me with you to the cross-roads of Les 
Boeufs, we would be very much obliged to you.’ 

The cross-roads of Les Bceufs? We are going there ourselves. Jove, 
everything will turn out all right ! ’ 

A quarter of an hour later the horsemen, who had lifted the women 
up behind them on their mounts, arrived at the meeting place. 

At the foot of the hill of Fausse-Repos the glade appeared, thronged 
with carriages and horses. The coachmen and lackeys were rolling dice 
as they waited for their masters to return, or drinking in the near-by 
tavern which had never known such a windfall before. 

Angelique caught sight of her groom. She jumped to the ground. 
‘Janicou, bring me Ceres!’ 

The man ran off towards the stables. A few moments later Angelique 
was in the saddle. She guided the animal out of the crowd, then dug her 
spurs into its flanks and darted off towards the forest. 

Ceres was a noble animal, her gleaming golden coat well deserving of 
her name of the goddess of summer. Angelique loved her only for the 
richness of her beauty; she was too self-interested to be genuinely fond 
of pets. But Ceres was gentle, and Angelique liked to ride her. 

Angelique turned off the path and spurred the animal up the steep 
slope of a little rise. At first the mare stumbled in the thick carpet of 
dead leaves, then recovered her footing and galloped up the hill. At the 
crest the trees still hid the view. Angelique could see nothing in the 
distance. She cupped her hand to her ear. From far away she could 
distinguish the baying of hounds in the east, then the note of a single 
horn which the other horns took up in chorus. She recognised the notes 
of the ‘to water’ call, and smiled. 

‘The hunt’s not over, Ceres my pet. Now, top speed! Perhaps we 
will save our reputation yet.’ 

She urged the mare into a gallop along the ridge of the hill, guiding 
her among the dense trees and under their gnarled leafy branches and 
over their moss-covered roots. The wild tangle of this deep part of the 


forest had scarcely been disturbed for years except occasionally by 
single hunters, or poachers with crossbows on their shoulders, or by 
outlaws. Louis XIII, and Louis XIV in his youth, had roused these 
ancient druidical oaks from their centuries-long slumber. The fresh 
breeze of the dazzling Court had dispersed, the dank mists; the perfumes 
of the great ladies had dispelled the dank scent of rotting leaves and 

The baying of the hounds drew nearer. The stag they were chasing 
must have succeeded in crossing the stream. It was not admitting 
defeat and was continuing its flight even though the dogs were at its 
heels. It was coming towards her. The horns blew again to rally the 

Angelique proceeded more slowly, then stopped again. The thud of 
galloping hooves drew closer. She emerged from the screen of trees. 
Beyond her a gentle slope led down to a grassy valley, at the bottom 
of which a swamp glittered in the sunlight. Round about her on the 
other side the forest still raised its dark screen, but here she could see 
the sky streaked with sooty grey clouds through which the pale sun was 
slowly sinking. The approach of twilight thickened the haze over the 
landscape, blotting out the dark blues and greens of the deep-summer 

Suddenly the massed baying of the hounds broke forth again. A brown 
shape leaped from the skirt of the woods. It was the stag, a young one 
with scarcely a prong on its antlers. The reeds on the marshy edge 
of the stream shook as it galloped past The pack of hounds descended 
on the trail of the stage like a torrent of red and white. Then a horse 
emerged from the coppice carrying a huntress in a scarlet habit. Almost 
at the same moment the riders broke into the open from all directions 
and dashed down the grassy slope. In an instant the peaceful rustic 
glade had been invaded by the wild rout joining their cries to the 
frenzied baying of the hounds and the whinnying of the horses, the 
shouts of the huntsmen and the glorious fanfare of the horns sound- 
ing the ‘View Halloo’. Against the dark backdrop of the forest the 
gleaming garments of the lords and ladies shone like sunset clouds, and 
the rays of the sinking sun sparkled their golden embroideries, their 
buckles and plumes. 

But in one last supreme effort the stag managed to break out of the 
lethal circle. Darting through a gap it was rushing again towards the 
shelter of the thickets. The shouts now were cries of disappointment and 
frustration. The mud-streaked hounds grouped again and set off once 
more on the chase. 


Angelique spurred Ceres gently forward and began to descend the 
hill. It seemed just the right moment for her to mingle with the crowd. 

It’s no use following/ said a voice behind her. The animal can’t last 
much longer. Crossing that bog will only mean you’ll get spattered up 
to your eyes. Believe me, lovely stranger, you’d better stay on this side. 
It’s a sure bet the keepers will come back to this clearing to leash up the 
dogs, and then we shall be clean and fresh to present ourselves before 
the King.’ 

Angelique turned around. She had no idea who the gentleman was 
who had just ridden up to within a few feet of her. His pleasant face 
smiled out from under a full powdered wig, and his costume was elegant. 
To bow to her, he removed his hat covered with snow-white ostrich 

‘Damned if I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you, Madame. I couldn’t 
have, for I would never have forgotten such a face as yours/ 

‘At Court possibly?’ 

‘At Court?’ he protested. ‘Hardly. I live there, Madame, I live there. 
You could not have passed me by unnoticed. No, Madame, don’t try 
to fool me. You have never been at Court.’ 

‘Ah, but I have, sir.’ Then after a brief pause she added, * - once/ 

He began to laugh. ‘Once! How delightful!’ He drew his blond eye- 
brows together in thought. ‘When was it? At the last ball? No, I don’t 
recall you there. And yet . . . It’s improbable, but I would bet you were 
not at the meeting at Fausse-Repos this morning/ 

‘You seem to know everyone here/ 

‘Everyone? That’s right. I’m in a good situation for that. You have 
to remember people if you want them to remember you. It’s a principle 
I have tried to adhere to since my early youth. My memory is faultless/ 

Then in that case will you be my mentor in this society I know so 
poorly? Tell me the names. For instance, who is that huntress in red 
who was riding so close to the hounds? She rides marvellously. A man 
couldn’t gallop any faster/ 

‘How right you are! That’s Mademoiselle de la Valliere/ 

The King’s favourite?’ 

‘Ah, yes, the favourite/ he said in a knowledgeable tone she could 
not immediately understand. 

‘I did not know she was so accomplished a huntress/ 

‘She was bom on a horse. In her childhood she used to ride the most 
spirited horses bareback. Just look at her floating over that jump like a 

‘You seem to know Mademoiselle de la Valli&re very well/ 


‘She is my sister.’ 

‘Oh/ Angelique choked, ‘are you . . . 

‘The Marquis de la Valliere at your service, lovely stranger/ 

He took off his hat and brushed its feathers against the end of his 
nose mockingly. 

Feeling slighdy embarrassed, she moved away, and. spurring her mare, 
descended towards the floor of the little valley. The mists were thickest 
there, hiding the pools of stagnant water. 

The Marquis de la Valliere followed her. ‘Wait a moment. What could 
I have said to offend you? Hark, they’re calling off the hounds not far 
from here. Monsieur du Plessis-Belliere will have taken out his knife 
and slit the stag’s throat by now. Have you ever seen that gentleman 
perform his supreme function as Master of the King’s Hunt? It’s worth 
seeing. He is so handsome, so elegant, so perfumed, it's hard to believe 
he can even use a knife. Well, he can handle a blade as if he had been 
raised among the sheep-shearers of the Paris slaughter-houses/ 

‘As a boy Philippe was famous for killing wolves he hunted all by 
himself in the forests of Nieul/ said Angelique with simple pride. 
‘The country folk used to call him “The Bane of the Wolves”/ 

‘Now it’s my turn to say you seem to know Monsieur du Plessis very 

‘He is my husband/ 

‘Well, for heaven's sake, this is funny I' 

He burst out laughing with the calculated and yet apparently spon- 
taneous laughter of the witty courtier who is at home anywhere. He 
must have practised that laugh as studiously as one of the King's own 

Then quickly he broke off and repeated with concern: ‘Your hus- 
band . . . ? So you are the Marquise du Plessis-Belliere? I have heard 
about jou. Didn't you . . . good heavens, didn’t you offend the King?' 

She stared at him horrified. 

‘Ah, there is His Majesty now/ he exclaimed suddenly. Leaving her 
in the lurch, he galloped off to meet a group that was emerging into 
the clearing. Angelique quickly recognised the King among his 

His conservative costume was in contrast to that of the other nobles. 
Louis XIV liked to dress casually, and it was said that whenever he 
had to put on his robes of state, he took them off again just as soon as 
the ceremony was over. When he went hunting he refused, more than 
at any other time, to deck himself out in laces and furbelows. Now he 
was dressed in a brown cloth riding-habit, modestly embroidered with 


gold thread at the buttonholes and on the flaps of the pockets. His 
huge riding boots encased his legs in black up to the groin. He was as 
inconspicuous as a country squire. 

But after one look at his face, no one would confuse him with any- 
one else. The dignity of his gestures, which were none the less studiously 
graceful, and his serene expression gave him a truly royal bearing re- 
gardless of the occasion. 

In his hand he held a light wooden wand tipped with a boar’s hoof. 
This had been solemnly given him before the start of the chase by 
the Master of the Royal Hunt, and was intended primarily for pushing 
aside branches which might impede the sovereign on his swift course. 
For centuries it had also been a symbol of honour and dignity and 
played a large part in the ceremonial of the hunt. 

Beside the King rode his favourite in her red habit. The excitement 
of the hunt had lent a rosy glow to her thin face, and disguised its 
sallow pallor in which there was no true beauty. Nevertheless Angelique 
perceived in it a delicate charm that aroused a secret pity in her. She 
could not explain this feeling, yet it seemed to her that Mademoiselle de 
la Valliere in spite of her secure position was not of sufficient stature to 
dominate the Court or be secure in it. Around her Angelique recognised 
the Prince de Conde, Madame de Montespan, Lauzun, Louvois, Brienne, 
Humieres, Madame du Roure, Madame de Montausier, the Princesse 
d’Armagnac, the Due d’Enghien. At a distance she glimpsed ‘Madame’, 
the dazzlingly beautiful Princess Henriette, and, of course, ‘Monsieur’, 
the King’s brother, and beside him his inseparable favourite, the 
Chevalier de Lorraine. Others she saw too, whom she knew less well. 
They all were stamped with the same brand of distinction, self- 
assurance - and greed. 

The King was watching impatiently a little footpath that wound into 
the woods, from which two horsemen were emerging at a walk. One 
was Philippe du Plessis-Belliere, who, like the King, was carrying a light 
wand of gilded wood ornamented with a stag’s hoof. His garments and 
his wig had hardly been ruffled by the hunt. 

At the sight of his handsome figure Angelique’s heart swelled with 
anger and apprehension. What would Philippe’s reaction be when he 
caught sight of her, whom only a few hours before he had left quiver- 
ing in a convent-prison? Unconsciously she tightened her grip on the 
reins. She knew Philippe well enough to know that he would not make 
a scene in the presence of the King. But afterward . . . ? 

Philippe was curbing his white horse to keep pace with his un- 
hurried companion, an elderly man with a tanned face, and a pointed 


grey beard in the style of the previous era. It seemed to emphasise the 
slow pace he was keeping in spite of the obvious impatience of the King, 
and made him appear almost sullen. 

‘Old Salnove thinks His Majesty has made him gallop long enough , 5 
said a person next to Angelique. The other day he kept complaining 
that in Louis XHI's time there didn't use to be so many hangers-on 
getting in everyone's way, slowing up the hunt, making everyone ride 
all day long/ 

Salnove had been the late king's Master of the Hunt, and had taught 
the present monarch the rudiments of that sport. He did not like to see 
its traditions violated. It was anathema to him that anyone should treat 
a hunt as merely a Court game. Louis XIII would never have had a 
lot of petticoats getting in his way when the fancy took him to go on a 
hunt in the forest. Salnove never missed a chance to call that principle 
of hunting to his pupil's attention. Even now he could not grasp the 
fact that Louis XIV was no longer the chubby-cheeked little boy he 
had once hoisted into the saddle for the first time. Out of loyalty and 
affection the King kept his father's old mentor still in his post. Philippe 
du Plessis was the Master of the Hunt in fact, but not in title. He 
demonstrated that distinction when he was almost up to the King, by 
giving the Marquis de Salnove the insignia of the wand with the stag's 

Salnove took it from him, and according to the ceremonial, received 
from the King's hand the wand with the boar's hoof which he had 
given the King at the start of the hunt. 

The hunt was at an end, yet the King asked: ‘Salnove, are the hounds 

The elderly Marquis was puffing with genuine exhaustion. All who 
had actively participated in the hunt - courtiers, whippers-in and 
servants - were drooping. 

The hounds?' Salnove shrugged. ‘Yes, of course. Why wouldn't they 

‘What about the horses?' 

The same.' 

‘And all for two stags too young to have antlers,' said the King 

He glanced at the crowd that surrounded him. Angelique sensed 
that regardless of his imperturbable and inscrutable expression he had 
nevertheless observed her presence and recognised her. She withdrew a 

‘Very well,' said the King, ‘we shall hunt again on Wednesday/ 


His announcement produced an astonished and anxious silence. Many 
of the women were wondering how they could ever get themselves into 
a saddle again just the day after tomorrow. 

The King repeated a little louder: ‘We will hunt the day after to- 
morrow, Salnove. Is that clear? And we want a ten-pronged, stag this 

‘Sire, I completely understand/ replied the Master. 

He bowed very low before he withdrew, but said loud enough to be 
heard by the guests: ‘What gets me is all this worry about the dogs and 
horses being tired, and never a thought for the humans/ 

‘Monsieur de Salnove P Louis XIV was calling him back. And when 
the Master of the Hunt stood again before him, ‘Understand that in my 
realm true huntsmen are never tired. That is the way I understand it/ 

Salnove bowed low again. 

The King moved out to lead the colourful procession of courtiers 
resolutely keeping their chins up and their backs straight as they rode 
homeward. What else could they do? 

As he passed Angelique, the King signalled for a halt. His impassive 
eyes were upon her, yet he seemed not to see her. Angelique kept her 
head high, reminding herself that she had never betrayed any fear she 
felt and resolving not to weaken now. She returned the King’s stare. 
Then she smiled at him. 

The King winced as if he had been stung by a bee. His cheeks 
coloured. ‘Why ... it is Madame du Plessis-Belli&re, I believe/ he said 

‘Your Majesty is gracious to remember me/ 

‘Indeed, it is more gracious of you to remember us/ replied Louis XIV, 
calling the attention of his entourage to her singular indifference and 
independence. ‘I trust you are in good health again, Madame/ 

‘Thank you, Your Majesty. My health has always been good/ 

‘In that case, how does it happen that you have ignored my invita- 
tions three times now?’ 

‘Sire, forgive me, but I never received them/ 

‘You astound me, Madame. I personally informed Monsieur du Plessis 
of my wish to have you with us at the Court entertainments. It seems 
unlikely that he could have been so absent-minded as to forget to tell 

‘Sire, perhaps my husband considered that a young woman should 
stay at home and ply her needle, rather than be distracted from her 
humble duties by the splendour of your Court/ 

As if rehearsed, every plumed hat turned along with the King’s to- 


wards Philippe, who, frozen with impotent rage, sat his white horse like 
a statue. 

Sensing the situation, the King, with his knack for extricating a group 
from an embarrassing moment, burst out laughing. ‘Oh, come, Marquis, 
I cannot believe your jealousy is so keen that you would stoop to con- 
ceal from our eyes the lovely treasure you possess. It seems to me you 
risk the sin of avarice. I shall forgive you this time, but I command you 
to look well to the happiness of Madame du Plessis. As for you, Madame, 
I do not wish to encourage you in your course of wifely insubordina- 
tion by congratulating you for disobeying the edicts of so autocratic a 
husband, but your spirit of freedom does please me. Pray, do not 
restrain yourself from taking part in what you so graciously call the 
splendours of the Court. I can guarantee that Monsieur du Plessis will 
not reproach you for doing so/ 

Philippe took off his hat and holding it at arm's length made almost 
too extreme a gesture of obedience to the King, Angelique nodced the 
smiles stealing over the mask-like faces of the courtiers, who only a few 
moments before had been panting with eagerness to tear her into a 
thousand pieces. 

‘Congratulations!' Madame de Montespan said to her. ‘You have a 
genius for getting yourself into awkward situations, but you certainly 
know how to get yourself out of them. You're as good as the mounte- 
banks on the Pont-Neuf with their escape-tricks. From the looks of the 
King I thought you were going to have the whole pack on your heels. 
The very next second you made yourself out a spunky prisoner over- 
coming a hundred obstacles, even prison walls, just to accept the King's 
invitation, regardless of what it might cost you later.' 

‘If you only knew how right you are!' 

‘Oht Tell me everything!' 

‘Perhaps. Some day.' 

‘Really! Is Philippe truly so dreadful? What a shame, and he so 
handsome . . / 

Angelique put an end to the conversation by spurring her horse into 
a gallop. By a winding road the hunters, the hounds and the squires were 
descending the slopes of Fausse-Repos, while the horns kept sounding 
behind them to guide those who were bringing up the rear. Soon they 
came upon the cross-roads crowded with carriages. 

At last everyone was free to dash for his own coach. The huntsmen, 
who were dying of thirst, called to the vendors of lemonade who followed 
the Court wherever it went. But night was falling, and there was just 
time for them to drain one goblet of the refreshing beverage, for the 

King was in a hurry to return to Versailles. Already the torches and 
lanterns had been lit. 

A coach grazed her as it turned. 

‘What are you doing?’ Madame de Montespan called out to her 
through the door-window. ‘Where’s your carriage?’ 

1 don’t have one. It turned over in a ditch.’ 

‘Climb in with me.’ 

A little farther on they picked up Mademoiselle de Parajonc and 
Javotte and like everyone else set their thoughts on Versailles. 


At that time woods closely surrounded the castle. As the hunting party 
issued from them it appeared quite close by on a little hill, its windows 
flashing like shooting stars as the torches behind them moved from one 
room to another. 

There was great bustling about. The King had let it be known that 
he was not going to leave for Saint-Germain that evening, as he had 
previously intended, but would stay on at Versailles for three more days. 
Now instead of packing up, accommodation for the King and his house- 
hold and all the guests had to be prepared; the horses had to be properly 
stabled, and banquets had to be got ready. 

The entrance court was so crowded with vehicles and soldiers and 
grooms that the coach had to stop outside. Philippe jumped out of the 
left-hand door of his coach, Angelique by the right-hand door of hers. 
The Marquis strode off at once towards the palace without paying any 
attention to the women. 

‘Monsieur du Plessis-Belliere must doubtless be hurrying to the 
quarry,’ said Mademoiselle de Parajonc, as if she knew all about it. 
‘Take care you do not miss the ceremony.’ 

‘What do you intend to do?’ asked Angelique. 

‘Sit down on this milestone and wait till I see someone I know going 
back to Paris. I am not one of the King’s guests, remember. You trot 
along, darling. All I ask is that you come to see me and tell me 
everything about life in the courts of the sun.’ 

Angelique promised. She kissed the old maid and left her there in 
the night mists wrapped in her old-fashioned cloak and pink-ribboned 
bonnet, her wrinkled white face beaming with childish delight at 
having been so near the Court on this never-to-be-forgotten day. 


Angelique herself crossed to the rim of the magic circle and began her 
ascent towards the elect. 

‘In the courts of the sun/ she repeated to herself as she made her way 
through the busde to the centre of the gathering. 

This was close to the central building of the casde, in the third court- 
yard, which was called the Court of Stags. In spite of the general dis- 
order, the select persons who were entided to join the King during the 
quarry were being carefully segregated. Angelique was stopped by a 
Swiss guardsman with a halberd, and a master of ceremonies politely 
inquired her dde. As soon as she had given her name he let her pass, 
even guided her attentively up the staircases and across the splendid 
rooms to one of the balconies on the second floor which overlooked the 
Court of Stags. 

The courtyard was lighted by countless torches. The pink brick wall 
of the palace over which flickered feathery shadows glowed like a 
brazier; the intricate tracery of the balconies and the cornices, and the 
gold-leaf sconces gleamed like many-coloured embroidery on a robe of 
purple velvet. 

The horns sounded a grand fanfare. 

The King advanced to the centre balcony with the Queen beside him. 
The royal princesses, the princes, the highest ranking noblemen sur- 
rounded them. 

Out of the depths of the night came the baying of the hounds as they 
approached up the hill. Two whippers-in appeared out of the shadows 
at the iron-grilled gate of the courtyard and entered the brightly lighted 
circle. They were dragging some sort of bundle from which dripped 
blood and gobbets of guts. It was the quarry, composed of the intestines 
of the two stags that had been killed, wrapped in the freshly flayed hide 
of one of them. Behind these two came other trainers in red livery, 
keeping the pack of greedy hounds from snapping at their heels with 
long whips. 

Philippe du Plessis-Belliere descended the staircase to meet them. In 
his hand was the wand with the stag's hoof. He had had time to change 
into a dazzling hunting suit, red, also, but trimmed with forty golden 
buttons across, and twenty up and down, its two pockets. His yellow 
leather boots had. red heels with silver-gilt spurs. 

‘His leg is as shapely as the King's/ remarked someone near 

‘But he walks with less grace. Philippe du Plessis-Belliere always 
strides as if he were setting out to battle/ 

‘Don't forget he's a Marshal, too.' 

3 1 

The young man stood at attention, his eyes fixed on the King in the 
balcony. The King gave a signal with his own wand. 

Philippe handed his insignia of office to the page behind him. Then 
he advanced towards the lackeys and took their dripping burden into 
his own hands. The gorgeous embroidery and laces of his silk coat were 
immediately drenched in blood. With magnificent unconcern he 
carried the quarry to the centre of the courtyard and there laid it down 
before the crescent of hounds, whose yapping and baying rose to the 
pitch of fiendish howls. The whippers held them back with savage 
lashes, yelling, "Down, you ! Down ! ’ 

At a signal from the King, they were released. They sprang on the 
bundle with snapping jaws, their sharp teeth gleaming in the torch- 
light. The dogs, kept tied up day after day and fed on raw meat, were 
like escaped wild beasts. The men who trained them now fought with 
them like gladiators in an arena. 

Philippe stood nearest to the savage horde armed with only a riding 
crop. From time to time he struck at them casually when they got into 
fights and seemed ready to devour one another. Soon the beasts would 
separate, growling but subdued. The cool temerity of the Master of the 
Hunt, standing so straight in his gorgeous, blood-drenched costume, 
his blond head so arrogant and his laces and jewels so sumptuous, added 
a strange and fascinating dimension to the barbaric scene. 

Tom between disgust and a passionate excitement, Angelique could 
not take her eyes away. Everyone there was, like her, hypnotised by the 

* ’Sdeath ! ’ murmured a throaty male voice near her, ‘to look at him 
you wouldn’t think he had the strength to crack an almond or pull 
petals off a daisy. I must say, I never in my life saw a huntsman who 
dared go so close to the trophy for fear of being attacked.’ 

On the pavement of the Court of Stags there now were left only the 
well-gnawed bones of the carcases. The last whip stuck his pitchfork 
into the pile of remains of a stag’s belly, and called the dogs to follow 
him out. The horns sounded the last phase of the quarry, then the 
call to quarters. Everyone began leaving the balconies. 

At the entrance to the brightly lighted rooms the irrepressible 
Peguilin de Lauzun was putting on an act like a barker at a carnival. 
‘Have fun, ladies and gentlemen. You have witnessed the most extra- 
ordinarily stupefying spectacle ever seen in this world - Monsieur du 
Plessis-Belliere in his role as tamer of wild beasts. You have shuddered, 
gentlemen. Ladies, you have trembled. How would you like to be she- 
wolves and be tamed by so gentle a hand? And now the wild beasts are 

3 * 

subdued. The gods are content. Nothing remains of the stag that this 
very morning was belling so gloriously in the depths of the forest. 
Come, ladies, gentlemen, let's dance!' 

Actually no one was dancing yet, for the King's orchestra of twenty- 
four violins had not yet arrived from Saint-Germain; but gaily dressed, 
deep-chested musicians were strutting around the great hall on the 
ground floor of the casde, blowing trumpets. These military fanfares 
were intended to stimulate the appetite. Stewards of the kitchen began 
to pass among the guests offering them silver trays laden with flowers 
and dainties and fruits. Four huge tables covered with damask cloths 
were being set with platters of silver-gilt and gold, and chafing dishes, 
piled with such mouth-watering delicacies as partridges in aspic, 
pheasants surrounded with fruits and vegetables, roast kids, pigeon pies, 
cassolettes of rice and ham. In the centre of each table was a great bowl 
of autumn fruit, around which were grouped bowls of figs and melons. 

Angelique was feasting on a poached quail and a mixture of salads 
that the Marquis de la Valli&re had brought her. She sipped at a glass 
of raspberry wine. The Marquis kept insisting that she take some rosolio 
also, which he called ‘the liqueur of sportiveness'. A page brought them 
two glasses to the window alcove where they sat chatting. It floated her 
into ecstasy. 

Once her appetite and her wonder at the scene were appeased, her 
thoughts turned to Mademoiselle de Parajonc sitting on the milestone 
in the damp mists of the evening. The least she could do for her old 
friend was to take her some leavings from the royal banquet Hiding 
under the voluminous folds of her gown a cake studded with almonds 
and two fine pears, she slipped out of the crowd unnoticed. Hardly had 
she stepped outdoors than she was hailed by Flipot carrying her cloak, 
a cape of heavy satin and velvet that she had left behind in Philonide’s 

‘So there you are! Could the coach be repaired?' 

‘As if we cared ! When it got dark, me and the coachman just walked 
out to the highroad and hitched a ride on a wine cart going to 

‘Have you found Mademoiselle de Parajonc?' 

‘She's over there.’ He waved towards the lower courtyard where 
lanterns were bobbing. ‘She was talking with some other one of your 
girl friends from Paris. I heard her say she could take her back in her 
rented coach.’ 

‘That's good. Poor Philonide ! I suppose I ought to buy her a new 


To make sure, she had Flipot lead her through the unimaginable 
tangle of coaches and carriages and horses and sedan chairs to the 
spot where he had seen Mademoiselle de Parajonc. When she caught 
sight of her she recognised the ‘other one of their girl friends 1 as 
Madame Scarron, an impoverished but worthy young widow who often 
came to Court as a petitioner in the hope of eventually getting some 
lithe job or other that would relieve her eternal poverty. 

Both of them were stepping into a public vehicle that was already 
crowded with other insignificant persons, many of whom were also 
petitioners. They were leaving just as they had come; the King had 
announced that he would hear no petitions that day - tomorrow after 

Some petitioners were staying on, resigned to sleeping in a corner of 
the courtyard or in a stable in some neighbouring hamlet. The rest were 
going back to Paris, where they would have to get up at dawn to catch 
the barge from the Bois de Boulogne and then cut across the forest to 
reappear pertinaciously in the King’s ante-chamber clutching their 
petitions in their hands. 

The public vehicle started out before Angelique could reach it and 
before she could attract the attention of her two friends. They were 
thrilled at having spent a day at Court, where they knew everyone, 
although no one knew them. They were like bees swarming around the 
queen of the hive, making honey out of the smallest incident that came 
within their reach. They ‘knew the Court’ better than many women 
whose high lineage automatically admitted them to its circle, but who 
lacked experience and were unfamiliar with the involved protocol, the 
prerogatives that rank or favouritism earned, the patronage of the 
King or of a grandee. 

She put her cloak about her shoulders, and gave the cake and the 
pears she had stolen to the young lackey. 

While she was returning to the ballroom, not even the bright scenes 
around her could distract her mind from Philippe. Any minute now 
she would find herself face to face with him. She could not decide 
how to behave. Should she be furious? Or nonchalant? Or repentant? 

At the threshold she stopped to try to spot him, but she could not 
see him. Catching sight of a table where Madame de Montausier was 
sitting with some of her friends, one of whom was Angelique’s acquaint- 
ance Madame du Roure, she went to join them. Madame de Montausier 
looked at her in amazement, then, rising, informed her that she could 
not sit at this table where there were only those ladies privileged to 
ride in the Queen’s carriage and dine with her. 


Angelique excused herself. She dared not sit at any other table for 
fear of being driven away again, and decided to leave to find her room 
by herself. 

The lower floors were given over to quarters for the courtiers. Just out- 
side the royal apartments huge reception rooms were being made ready. 
In contrast, the attics were divided into many little rooms crudely par- 
titioned off and reserved for servants principally, but where many a 
great noble would be happy to find rest on a night like this. Here too 
was a swarm of activity as people rushed from cubicle to cubicle dodging 
the trunks and portmanteaus that the servants were lugging in. Ladies 
driven frantic in their attempts to dress were shouting abuse at servants 
who darted back and forth carrying their voluminous ball gowns. The 
chief worry of the guests was how they could ever squeeze out of the 
doors of their ‘closets 1 and through the narrow corridors. 

The blue-uniformed quartermasters assigned to the distribution of 
rooms were just finishing writing the names of the occupants on the 
doors. The guests followed on their heels emitting groans of disappoint- 
ment or little shrieks of delight. 

Flipot hailed Angelique. ‘Psst! This way, Madame/ Then he added 
disgustedly: ‘It’s not much like your own big bedroom. How can people 
live like this in the palace of the King?’ All his dreams about the 
luxurious life of the nobility had been shattered. 

Javotte appeared her cheeks flushed. She seemed worried. Tve 
laid out everything you will need, Madame. I haven’t forgotten a 

Progressing a little farther, Angelique discovered the cause of 
Javotte’s anxiety. It was La Violette, her husband’s valet. His mouth 
fell open, and he stared at Angelique as if she were a ghost. Could this 
be the same woman whom only a few hours earlier he had rolled up in 
a blanket like a sausage and carried off to the good sisters of the 
Augustine Convent at Bellevue? 

‘Yes, it’s I, you scoundrel!’ Angelique shouted at him. Her anger 
flared. ‘Out of my sight, you wretch! Murderer! Do you know you 
almost strangled your master’s wife?’ 

‘Ma-madame- Madame la Marquise/ stammered La Violette, 
lapsing into his peasant dialect, ‘it wasn’t my fault. Monsieur le Marquis 
... he ... he .. / 

‘Get out of here ! ’ 

Shaking her fist she hurled at him a fine string of insults she remem- 
bered from the dialect of her childhood. It was too much for La 
Violette, who gave way before her onslaught. Almost trembling, his 


shoulders drooping, he squeezed past her towards the door. There he 
ran into the Marquis. 

'What’s going on here?’ 

Angelique looked him straight in the eye. 'Why, good evening, 
Philippe/ she said. 

He turned on her the look of a blind man. Then suddenly she saw 
his features contort and his eyes open in an expression of astonishment 
and confusion that soon changed into fear and little by litde into 

She could not keep from turning around as if to see some demon 
leering behind her. She saw only the swinging leaf of the folding door 
on which one of the quartermasters had written the name of the 
Marquis in white chalk. 

'That’s what I owe you!’ he exploded, striking the door with his fist 
'That is the affront I owe to you. Disrepute! Ignominy! The loss of 
the King’s favour ! Disgrace f 

'Why, how is that?’ she said. He must be out of his mind, she 

'Don’t you see what is written on that door?’ 

'Of course. It’s your name.’ 

‘Yes, my name. Indeed it is my name.’ He grinned. ‘And that is all.’ 

'Did you want them to put someone else’s there?’ 

'It’s what I have seen there for all the years and in all the residences 
in which I have followed the King, and that your foolishness, your . . . 
your idiocy make me want to see erased now. It’s the "Reserved for . . 
The "Reserved for”!’ 


* "Reserved for” the Marquis du Plessis-Belliere,’ he said between his 
teeth, white with anger. ‘That phrase signifies the special guest of Has 
Majesty. By it the King shows his friendship as if he himself were stand- 
ing on the sill to welcome you.’ 

The gesture with which he described the narrow, crowded little attic 
room restored Angelique’s sense of humour. 

‘I think you’re getting far too excited about that "Reserved for”/ she 
said, trying to keep from laughing. 'One of those quartermasters must 
have made a mistake, don’t you think, Philippe? His Majesty has 
always held you in very high regard. Weren’t you appointed to bring 
the King his night-light this evening?’ 

'I was not/ he said. ‘There’s proof enough of the King’s displeasure 
with me. That extraordinary honour was taken away from me hardly 
a moment ago.’ 


His loud tones had drawn the occupants of the neighbouring rooms 
into the corridor. 

Tour wife is right, Marquis/ interposed the Due de Gramont. Tou 
are wrong to be so pessimistic. His Majesty himself took pains to explain 
to you that if he asked you to relinquish the honour of bringing him his 
night-light this evening, it was only to do something for the Due de 
Bouillon, who was put out at having been obliged to surrender his office 
to the Prince de Conde during supper/ 

‘But the “Reserved for”?’ roared Philippe, pounding on the door 
again. ‘That slut there is responsible for my loss of favour/ 

‘How can I be to blame for your damned “Reserved for”?' shouted 
Angelique, whose anger was also rising. 

Tou displeased the King by refusing his invitations, by your late 
arrival . . / 

Angelique’s words stuck in her throat. ‘How dare you blame me for 
that when you . . . you . . . All my carriages, all my horses . . / 

That’s enough out of you, said Philippe sternly, raising his hand. 

She felt her head bursting. The flames of the candles fluttered crazily 
in deep blackness. She put her hand to her cheek. 

‘Come, come, Marquis/ said the Due de Gramont. ‘Don’t be so 

Angelique had never before endured such a humiliation. To be 
struck in front of all the servants and courtiers in a sordid household 
quarrel ! She blushed with shame up to the roots of her hair. She called 
Javotte and Flipot, who dashed out of the room in astonishment, one 
carrying her undergarments and the other her cloak. 

‘So/ said Philippe, ‘go to bed when you wish and with whom you 

‘Marquis ! Marquis ! Don’t be coarse/ intervened the Due de Gramont 
once more. 

‘My lord, even a woodcutter is master in his own hut/ replied the 
furious nobleman, shutting the door in the face of the spectators. 

Angelique broke a passage for herself through them and escaped, 
pursued by their insincere expressions of pity and their ironic smiles. 
An arm thrust out from a door caught hold of her. 

‘Madame/ said the Marquis de la Valliere, ‘there is not a woman in 
Versailles who does not envy you the licence your husband has just 
given you. Take the boor at his word and accept my hospitality/ 

She broke away, irritated. ‘Please, sir . . / 

The one thing she wanted was to get away as fast as possible. As she 
descended the great marble staircase, tears of vexation glistened in her 


eyes. ‘He's a fool, a mean, shabby good-for-nothing disguised as a great 
nobleman ... a fool ... a fool!’ 

Nevertheless, she realised, he was a dangerous fool, and it was she 
herself who had forged the chains that bound her to him. She had given 
him the incontrovertible rights that a husband has over a wife. Deter- 
mined to revenge himself on her, he would show her no mercy. She 
could imagine the unspeakable satisfaction he would derive from his 
determined efforts to humiliate her and make her his complete slave. She 
knew of only one weak point in his armour - his devotion to the King 
which was neither love nor fear but rather a single-minded unwaver- 
ing loyalty. She would have to play on this relationship. If only she could 
make the King her ally, get from him a permanent place at Court, 
litde by little manoeuvre Philippe into a dilemma in which he would 
either have to displease the King or cease provoking his wife. But what 
happiness would she get out of that? Only the happiness of which, in 
spite of everything, she had dreamed in the stillnesses of the forest of 
Nieul, when the full moon rose above the white turrets of the little 
Renaissance castle as she prepared to consummate her wedding night 
What a bitter disappointment ! What a wry memory 1 So far as he was 
concerned, everything had turned to ashes in her mouth. 

She felt unsure of her charm and her beauty. Not to be loved as a 
woman is to feel utterly forlorn. Would she be able to finish what she 
had begun? She knew her own weakness — to love him and at the same 
time to want to hurt him. In her driving ambition, her resolute deter- 
mination to rise above her misfortunes she had forced him into the 
alternatives of either marrying her or exposing himself and his father 
to the wrath of the King. He had chosen to marry her, but he would 
never forgive her. Through her own fault the spring from which they 
both might have drunk invigorating draughts had become polluted, 
the hand which she might have given him in tenderness now was a 
thing of horror to him. 

Angelique gazed at her own white hands with sad regret. 

‘What damned spot would you have out, my beautiful Lady 
Macbeth?' The voice of the Marquis de Lauzun was close to her ear. 

He bent over her. ‘Where is the blood of your crime? Why, how cold 
your litde paws are 1 What are you doing here on this draughty stair- 

‘I don't know.' 

‘Abandoned? And with such lovely eyes? What a crime! Come along 
with me.' 

A litde group of ladies joined them, Madame de Montespan among 


them. ‘Monsieur de Lauzun, we have been looking everywhere for you. 
Take pity on us/ 

‘It is very easy for you to arouse pity in my heart. How may I help 
you, Mesdames?’ 

‘Take us to your house. The King had you build a hotel in the hamlet 
Here we don’t even have a right to a flagstone in the Queen’s ante- 

‘But aren’t you the Queen’s own ladies-in-waiting, just like Madame 
du Roure and Madame d’Artignys?’ 

‘Yes, but our usual rooms have been tom up by the painters. They are 
putting Jupiter and Mercury up there ... on the ceiling. The gods have 
chased us out.’ 

‘Cheer up. I will take you to my hotel.’ 

They went out into the fog which had become thicker and thicker, 
imbued with the dank odour of the forest. Lauzun summoned a linkboy 
and guided the women down the hill. 

‘Here we are/ he said, stopping before a heap of white stones. 

‘Here? What is this?’ 

‘My hotel. You are quite right that the King ordered me to build one. 
but the first stone has yet to be laid.’ 

‘You are not very funny, hissed Athenais de Montespan in a rage. 
‘We are chilled to the marrow here in this muddy rubbish.’ 

‘Be careful you don’t step into a hole,’ Peguilin warned them. ‘There’s 
been a lot of digging around here.’ 

Madame de Montespan stalked off, stumbled several times, and 
twisted her ankle. She burst into oaths again, and all the way back 
to the palace kept hurling epithets over her shoulder at the Marquis 
that would have done credit to a guardsman. 

Lauzun laughed again when the Marquis de la Valliere, who was 
passing by, shouted to him that he would be late for the “nightshirt”. 
The King had gone to his bedroom, and the nobles were supposed to 
be there when the chief valet handed the nightshirt to the Grand 
Chamberlain, who passed it to His Majesty. The Marquis de Lauzun 
left the ladies abrupdy, but not before he had offered them his hospital- 
ity again ... in his bedroom which was ‘somewhere way up there’. 

The four young women, followed by Javotte, returned to the crowded 
ballroom, where, to use an expression of Madame de Montespan’s, ‘the 
floors were creaking under the weight’. After a long search they found 
the inscription of honour on a little low door: “Reserved for the 
Marquis Peguilin de Lauzun.’ 

‘Lucky Peguilin!’ sighed Madame de Montespan. ‘What difference 


does it make if he’s the biggest fool in the world so long as the King 
treats him as a favourite. When you stop to think of it, he has a very 
average figure and indifferent looks/ 

‘But his good qualities make up for that/ said Madame du Roure. 
‘He is very witty, and he has something that makes a woman, once she 
has been with him, never leave him for another man/ 

Such was doubtless the opinion of young Madame de Roquelaure, 
whom they found in the bedroom in quite scanty attire. Her maid had 
just finished helping her into a nightgown of lawn embroidered with 
lace and designed to conceal none of her charms. After a moment of 
confusion she recovered herself to say graciously that since Monsieur de 
Lauzun had invited his friends there, she would indeed make them 
welcome. Co-operation was the least one could show in such unusual 
situations as turned up during a stay at Versailles. 

Madame du Roure was delighted. She had long suspected that 
Madame de Roquelaure was Peguilin’s mistress, and now she was sure 
of it. 

The room was no wider than its window, which opened on the woods, 
The curtained bed, which the servants had just made up, filled it 
entirely. When everyone was inside, no one could budge. Fortunately, 
due to its tiny size, it was warm. The fire in the little fireplace crackled 

‘Ah/ said Madame de Montespan, pulling off her muddy slippers, 
‘let’s get rid of the last of that damned Peguilin’s practical joke/ 

She rolled down her mud-spattered stockings, and her friends did 
likewise. All four of them sat down on the flagstones in their wide- 
spreading skirts and toasted their toes at the fire. 

Lauzun returned, accompanied by one of his noble friends, who 
helped him undress, Lauzun and Madame de Roquelaure went to 
bed. Once the curtains were drawn, no one paid them the slightest 

Angelique started thinking of Philippe again. How to humble him, 
how to vanquish him, or at least how to escape his revenge and prevent 
him from ruining the future she had so painstakingly planned for 

The day would come when his stupid tricks, like hiding the carriages, 
would give way to more dangerous patterns of behaviour. He knew 
indeed how to perform them - through her sons or through her own 
freedom. If the inhuman fancy should strike him to torture Florimond 
and Cantor, as he had already done her, how could she protect them? 
Fortunately the two little boys were safe at Monteloup, where they were 


growing strong and healthy running around the countryside with the 
peasant children of Poitou. Their fate was of no immediate concern to 
her. She told herself that she was being foolish to plunge herself into 
such imaginary terrors during this, her first night at Versailles. 

The fire was getting too hot. She asked Javotte to hand her two fire- 
shields of daintily decorated parchment. One of them she offered to 
Madame de Montespan. The beautiful young woman admired her little 
travelling case of red leather lined with white damask and bound in 
gold. Inside, separated by partitions, were an ivory night-light, a bag 
of black satin containing ten candles of virgin wax, a hollow bodkin to 
hold pins, two small round mirrors, and a larger oval one set with 
pearls, two lace nightcaps to match a delicate linen nightgown, a gold 
case holding three combs and another one for brushes. These last were 
little masterpieces of tortoise-shell enhanced by gold filigree. 

1 had them made from the tortoise-shell that comes from the tropic 
seas/ Angelique explained. 1 can't stand horn or hoof/ 

1 see/ sighed the Marquise de Montespan enviously. ‘Ah, what 
wouldn't I give to have such beautiful things ! I suppose I might have 
had them, if I hadn't had to pawn my jewels to pay off my gambling 
debts. If I hadn't done that, how could I have put in an appearance 
at Versailles tonight? Monsieur de Ventadour, to whom I owe a 
thousand pistoles, will be waiting for me. He's a charming man.' 

‘But haven’t you been appointed Maid of Honour to the Queen? 
That must have brought you some perquisites.' 

‘Pooh, it's a nuisance! My clothes alone cost me twice as much. I 
spent two thousand livres for the costume I wore in the ballet of Orpheus 
Lully composed, that was given at Saint-Germain. Oh, but it was 
lovely ! My costume especially. The ballet was the same as always. I was 
a nymph, with all sorts of ornaments representing the things that grow 
around a woodland spring. The King was Orpheus, of course. He opened 
the dance with me. Benserade mentions it in his Court chronicle. So 
does Loret, the poet/ 

‘Everyone has been talking about the attention the King has been 
paying you,' Angelique remarked. 

The feelings that Madame de Montespan had aroused in her were 
somewhat mollified. She envied the flashing radiance of her charm and 
the brilliance of her conversation, even though her own beauty was quite 
comparable. Both of them were from good families in Poitou. Yet beside 
Athina’is de Montespan Angelique felt inferior, in spite of her gift for 
easy repartee, and she was often silent in her company. She was aware 
of how alluring the young marquise's conversation was; no matter how 


she exaggerated anything, her voice was so trained and modulated that 
people believed her before they were appalled. This eloquence of hers, 
in which nature and art were so subtly combined that even a cynical 
observation drew admiration, was a talent in her family. It was called 
“the Mortemart speech”. 

The family of Mortemart de Rochechouart was an impressive one. 
Angelique de Sance, who knew all the genealogy of Poitou, was always 
impressed by the magnificence of the traditions that clung to that great 
house. Long ago Edward of England had married one of his daughters 
to a lord of Mortemart. The present Due de Vivonne had the King and 
the Queen Mother as godparents. 

In the deep blue eyes of Madame de Montespan could be divined the 
proud and perhaps foolish motto of the family: 

Before the sea produced the earth 
The waves of Rochechouart had birth. 

But none of those traditions had protected her from arriving in Paris 
poor as a churchmouse, without any possessions other than an old 
carriage, and from struggling before her marriage with all the hateful 
obstacles of poverty. Prouder and more sensitive than anyone believed, 
the girl had often been reduced to tears. 

Better than anyone else Angelique knew the humiliating problems 
with which the lovely Montespan had wrestled. Time and again since 
she first knew the family, she had had to pacify their irascible creditors, 
and lend sums that she knew she would never see again and for which 
no one would dream of thanking her. Angelique derived a certain 
pleasure from putting the Montespans under obligation to her. Often 
she asked herself why she kept up such an unrewarding friendship, 
arguing that on the one hand Athenais was fundamentally a sweet 
person, and on the other that she ought to have the good sense to have 
nothing more to do with her. Still the girl’s vitality bewitched her. 
Angelique had always liked people who were bound to be successful, 
and Athenais was one of them. Her ambition was as boundless as the 
sea whose origin her family claimed. It was better to follow her and 
ride on the crest of her wave than to try to oppose her. 

For her own part Athenais found it convenient to have so generous a 
friend whose fortune was secure thanks to good investments, a friend as 
well whom she could see without losing caste. In spite of her beauty 
Angelique did not overshadow her. 

In response to the allusion her friend had made to the King’s favour, 


Madame de Montespan’s face, which had seemed careworn all evening, 
relaxed a little. 

The Queen is good and pregnant. Mademoiselle de le Valliere is just 
beginning to be. It’s a propitious moment for attracting the King’s 
attention/ Athenais said with a sparkling smile in which there lurked a 
suspicion of mischief. ‘Oh, Angelique, what are you getting me to say, 
or even to think ! I would be stricken with shame if the King wanted to 
make me his mistress. I would never again dare appear before the Queen, 
she is such a good woman P 

Angelique was not taken in by this protestation of virtue. There were 
certain dimensions of Athenais’s character that astonished her, such as 
her ability to dissemble her piety before others when she was tom 
between hypocrisy and sincerity. Frivolous as she was, Madame de 
Montespan never missed Mass or any other devotion, and the Queen 
would repeat to anyone who cared to listen how pleased she was to 
have so devout a lady-in-waiting. 

‘Do you remember/ said Angelique laughingly, ‘the visit we made with 
Fran^oise Scarron to that fortune-teller named Malvoisin? Even then 
you wanted to ask her whether you’d succeed in getting the King to fall 
in love with you/ 

‘Nonsense I’ said the Marquise, with a gesture as if to brush aside 
such a whim. ‘Furthermore I had not then been appointed to Her 
Majesty’s suite, and I was looking for some way to get advancement at 
Court. The old woman told us nothing but lies/ 

‘She said all three of us would be loved by the King/ 

‘Even Fran^oise?’ 

‘Oh, I forgot. Fran^oise’s destiny was the most glamorous of all. She 
would marry the Kingl’ 

They laughed together. ‘Francoise Scarron, Queen of France !’ 

‘Oh, how happy I am ! ’Athena'is sighed suddenly. ‘Can you believe 
that I owe my carriage-maker eighteen hundred livres for the saddle 
and bridle he made for me to use today. I hope you noticed how lovely 
the leather is. I had him touch it with gold leaf so that it would look 
like real embroidery. It was magnificent 1’ 

‘For eighteen hundred livres . . . ’ 

‘Oh, it’s not an enormous debt after all. I’ll just turn up my nose at 
Gaubert’s complaints and tell him he’ll have to wait along with his 
fellow-creditors, the tailor and the draper and the jeweller. But that 
unbearable husband of mine has gone to him to order a pair of 
diamond ear-rings that my heart is set on, and if I don’t pay up 
tomorrow he won’t deliver them. Did you ever hear of such a meddling 


husband? He doesn’t know how to hang on to his money. He gambles - 
lord, how he gambles! I can’t make him listen to reason. And such 
extravagant notions ! I can see that I shall end my days just like my 
old aunt the Duchesse de Bellegarde. You remember. She’s not one of 
my family, I’m glad to say. Her husband got furiously jealous of her- 
he’s seventy-five and she is only fifty-five -and shut her up in his 
castle, took everything away from her to the point where she had to cut 
up her sheets to make clothes. That’s the reward I’ll get for marrying 
him. All the Montespans are touched somehow.’ 

Angelique, whose cheek was still smarting from the slap Philippe 
had given her, did not find these tales of Madame de Montespan very 
amusing. Her expression delighted the mischievous young woman. 

‘Now don’t go having gloomy thoughts. You hold your Philippe with 
stronger reins than mere conjugal affection. They say you let him 
rummage freely in your commercial treasure chests.* 

At Court Angelique wished to be the Marquise du Plessis-Belliere 
and nothing else. The reference Madame de Montespan made to her 
manoeuvres in business set her teeth on edge. 

‘Well, don’t you worry about whether or not I’U allow myself to be 
locked away,’ she said testily. ‘If I am, you’ll have plenty of time then 
to think about what you have lost. If you were smart you would help 
me find a place at Court instead. For instance, you could tell me of some 
vacant position I might acquire.’ 

Athenais raised her arms to the heavens. ‘My poor child, what are you 
thinking of! An empty place at Court? You might as well try to find a 
needle in a haystack. Everybody is on the alert for one, and even when 
he has the price ready, he can hardly get one.’ 

‘Still you succeeded in becoming Maid of Honour to the Queen.’ 

‘The King himself appointed me. I used to make him laugh when he 
came to Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s. His Majesty thought I would 
amuse the Queen. He is very solicitous about his wife. He was so in- 
sistent on my being with her that he was discreet enough to pay what I 
couldn’t of the fee. You have to have a patron, and there is none like 
the King himself. Just think a little of whom you could get. Or else you 
could invent something for your own good and show it to His Majesty. 
It would be examined by the Supreme Council. If you could have it 
introduced into the Parliament, then you would be sure to get it.’ 

‘That sounds quite complicated and hard. What exactly do you mean 
by “inventing something for my own good”?’ 

‘Well, I myself don’t know. You have to use your imagination. 
Wait, here’s a recent example. I know the Sieur du Lac, majordomo of 


the Marquis de la Valliere, joined up with Collin, the Marquise's buder, 
to ask permission to collect two sous an acre on all the vacant land 
between the township of Meudon, near Saint-Cloud, and the hamlet of 
Chagny, near Versailles. It was a happy inspiration, because now that 
the King has selected that region for his palace, everyone will buy up 
land there. And how were these vacant lands described? The bill was 
recommended by Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and the King signed it 
immediately. He has never refused her anything. The Parliament was 
compelled to approve it. Those two insignificant IJittle commoners 
will end up with their coffers bursting with gold. Furthermore it's a 
trait of our favourite to play fairy godmother to her servants. She 
never says no to them. Then the King began to be bored with the horde 
of petitioners she presented to him. The most outstanding is her own 
brother, the Marquis; he's got a real genius for petitioning. You could 
consult him advantageously. Hell give you good advice, I'm sure, 
because, as I have noticed, he is not wholly indifferent to you. And 
while you are waiting I might present you to the Queen. You could 
speak to her. Perhaps you would attract her interest.' 

That's just what you can do,' said Angelique with spirit. ‘And I 
promise you I'll find something in my “commercial treasure chests” 
to appease your carriage-maker.' 

The Marquise de Montespan did not disguise her delight ‘Agreed. 
You're an angel! You’d be an archangel if only you could get me a 
parrot. Yes, one of those big tropical ones you import. You know, one 
with red and green feathers. Oh, I'm dreaming!’ 

chapter four 

As day broke, Madame de Montespan yawned and stretched. She had 
continued to gossip with Angelique by fits and starts, since the limited 
space in the room hardly allowed them an opportunity to stretch out 
and rest. 

Behind the curtains of the great bed they heard two bodies turn 
over, yawn too, and then a tender murmuring. 

T imagine it would be a good idea to go downstairs,' said Athenais. 
The Queen is about to call for her Maids of Honour. I want to be one of 
the first to answer so that I can go to Mass with her. Are you coming?' 

‘Perhaps it's not an auspicious moment for me to be presented to 
Her Majesty.' 

‘No, it would be better if you waited until we come back from 


the chapel. You stand in the passage. But first I must show you the best 
spots to see Their Majesties and, if possible, be seen by them. It’s a tricky 
business. Come down with me. I will show you a little retiring room 
near the Queen’s apartments which the Maids of Honour use to tidy 
themselves up and also as a meeting place. Have you anything to wear 
except your riding habit?’ 

Tn my trunk. But I’ll have to lay hands on my lackey so that I can 
send him for it into my husband’s room.’ 

‘Wear something simple for the morning. After Mass the King 
receives his petitioners and then goes into conference with his 
Ministers. This evening, I think, there will be a play and a ballet. Then 
you can trot out your best jewels. But now, let’s get going.’ 

The air outside the room was cold and damp. Madame de Montespan 
tripped down the staircases oblivious of the draughts that swirled 
around her beautiful bare shoulders. 

‘Aren’t you freezing?’ Angelique asked. 

The Marquise dismissed the question with a gesture of indifference. 
She had acquired a courtier’s endurance in putting up with the worst 
kinds of inconveniences - heat and cold in rooms that were either open 
to the four winds or stifling hot under the blaze of thousands of candles, 
the fatigue of standing for hours, sleepless nights, the weight of 
brocaded gowns laden with jewels. A robust constitution, the continual 
excitement, and particularly the endless entertainments kept sophisti- 
cated women like her going. Without being aware of it they were 
actually heroic, even to the point of welcoming their torments. 

From her days of scanty rations Angelique had retained an extreme 
sensitivity to cold. She could hardly do without a cloak, and she had a 
huge collection of them, all very handsome. The one she wore now was 
made of alternate bands of velvet and satin whose colours blended into 
a blue-green tonality. Its hood was trimmed with a veil of Venetian lace 
which she could pull down over her face when she did not wish to be 

Madame de Montespan left her at the entrance of the Banquet Hall, 
where the Swiss guards stood as motionless as statues, each in a starched 
ruff and holding a halberd. Nothing in the palace seemed yet to have 
awaked to life, even though the bright morning light was seeping into 
the dim salons. The balconies and galleries gaped in the gloom like 
huge storeyed grottoes, suggesting that they might be filled with gold 
and precious stones. Most of the candles had guttered out. 

‘I’ll leave you here,’ Athenais whispered as if awed by the silent 
solemnity that pervaded these usually boisterous rooms. ‘Over there is a 


dressing-room where you can sit while you wait. In a little while the 
courtiers who help the King to rise will put in an appearance. His 
Majesty gets up early. Ill see you soon/ 

As Athenais moved off, Angelique opened the door her friend had 
pointed out. It was almost a secret door, concealed by being covered 
with the same tapestry as the walls. 

‘Oh, I beg your pardon ! ’ she said, closing it quickly. 

She would never have suspected that a hideaway so tiny that it could 
not accommodate a sofa might still be put to such a romantic use. 
‘Strange/ she thought, ‘I didn’t imagine Madame de Soubise had so 
handsome a bosom. Why do you suppose she hides such allurements?’ 

Needless to say, her companion was not Monsieur de Soubise. 
Angelique was sure of that. At Versailles no one paid any attention to 
infidelity; indeed any show of affection between husband and wife 
would have been considered utterly plebeian and in poor taste. 

Angelique had no recourse but to wander through the enormous 
empty rooms. In the first she stopped, the Ionic Room, so called because 
of the twelve columns supporting its cornice. Here the light was strong 
enough for her to admire the grace of the white shafts rising into the 
shadows and unfolding into curls like ripples on a calm dark sea. The 
gold of the lofty ceiling, divided into squares by heavy ebony beams, 
was still hardly visible, but out of its cavern darted the gleams of the 
crystal prisms of the chandeliers like fairyland stalactites suspended on 
invisible threads. Three sets of mirrors on the wall reflected the 
windows through which the early morning sun was now streaming. 

Leaning against the marble window casing she looked out towards 
the park, awaking too from its night’s slumber. The terrace that 
stretched away from the palace in an unbroken expanse of grassy lawn 
was as smooth as a tide-washed beach. Farther off rose wisps of mist 
draping the tops of the well-pruned elms. Their trunks seemed the 
towers of a phantom city within whose blue-white walls lay magic 
gardens embroidered with flowerbeds and sequined with pools of dark 
green water on whose surface glided silvery swans. 

As the sun rose higher it flashed from the mirror-smooth basins of 
the great fountains that stretched into the horizon - the Fountain of 
Latona, the Fountain of Apollo - all the way to the golden ribbon of the 
Grand Canal into which emptied the streams of the marshland round- 
about, where beyond the reach of human eye dwelt wild ducks and 

‘A penny for your thoughts, Marquise/ whispered the voice of an 
invisible male. 


Angelique stared about her, as startled as if the marble statue that 
confronted her had broken into speech. 

‘Tell me your dreams, Marquise/ 

‘Who . . . who is it?' 

‘It is I, Apollo, god of the beauty which you have been so gracious 
to share with me this early morning hour/ 

Angelique gasped. 

‘Chilly, isn’t it? You wear a cloak, but as for me, I am quite nude. 
For, as you might guess, a marble body has no warmth/ 

Angelique peered behind the statue. She saw nothing but a heap of 
multicoloured garments lying on the floor by the pedestal. As she bent 
down and touched it, it sprang up like a frisky kid, whirled on its toes, 
and coming to rest revealed a tiny gnome-like face peering out at her 
from deep within a hood. 

‘Barcarole!’ exclaimed Angelique. 

‘At your service, Marquise of the Angels/ 

The Queen’s dwarf bowed low before her. No taller than a seven- 
year-old child, his poor little deformed body on its twisted legs diverted 
attention from the sweet intelligence of his face. A cap of scarlet satin 
trimmed with bells and baubles fitted closely over his skull, and his 
tight-fitting doublet was also of parti-coloured black and scarlet satin, 
but bare of bells and other ornament. There was lace at his cuffs, and 
he carried a miniature sword. 

It had been a long time since Angelique had seen him. He had the 
manners of an aristocrat, and she told him so. 

‘That’s true/ Barcarole said smugly. ‘If I had the figure for it, I could 
match any one of the fine lords who strut about here. Ah, if only our 
good Queen would let me snip off these bells from my cap, how truly 
happy she would, make me. But she maintains that in Spain all jesters 
wear bells, and that if she couldn’t hear them jingling, she would be 
even more homesick. Fortunately my two companions and I have an 
unsuspected ally in the King. He can’t stand us. When he comes to see 
the Queen he never misses a chance to chase us out with his stick. 
We keep out of its way by turning somersaults that make all our bells 
jingle like mad. Then when he is deep in some intimate discussion 
we shake our rattles so that he can’t hear what’s being said, and 
that puts him into a bad humour. Finally the Queen takes notice, 
sighs but only says one of our bells has come unsewed and we 
should go and get it fixed. Soon we shall venture to obtain another 

‘What will that be?’ 


‘A wig/ Barcarole answered, rolling his eyes till only the whites were 

Angelique laughed. ‘You’re putting on airs, Monsieur Barcarole/ 

1 want to get ahead, rise in the world/ the dwarf said matter-of- 

Under his pose of a mature man, she could detect the irony of 
melancholy. ‘It’s good to see you again, Barcarole. Let’s have a litde 

‘Aren’t you worried about your reputadon? They’ll start telling tales 
about us. What if your husband challenged me to a duel?’ 

‘You have a sword, haven’t you?’ 

‘Why, of course. Nothing is impossible to a valiant soul. I’m going 
to flirt with you, Madame. Just keep looking out of the window. Any- 
one who passes by will simply think we are admiring the gardens and 
never suspect I’m pouring out a heart’s devotion to you/ 

He skipped over to the window and flattened his nose against the 
pane like a child. ‘What do you think of this place? Pleasant, isn’t it? 
Ah, Marquise of the Angels, you may be a great lady now, but you 
still haven’t forgotten your friendship with the Queen’s jester!’ 

Angelique kept her eyes on the gardens, but she laid her hand on the 
dwarf’s shoulder. ‘The memories that bind us to each other are not 
such that they can be forgotten, Barcarole/ Softly she added, ‘Would 
that they might be!’ , 

By now the sun had melted the mists. The day would be cloudless, 
as bright and fresh as if it w’ere springtime. The green leaves of the 
elms gleamed like emeralds, the clear water of the fountains reflected 
the deep blue of the sky, the flowers danced with a thousand colours. 
The dozens of gardeners who had gone to work with their rakes and 
wheelbarrows were lost in the vast expanse of the esplanade. 

Barcarole was speaking in a low voice. ‘Sometimes our Queen worries 
when she hasn’t seen me all day long. That’s because her favourite 
dwarf has gone to Paris to pay homage to another Majesty, whose 
subjects are not permitted to forget him -The Great Coesre, Wood- 
Bottom, King of the Underworld. He hasn’t many subjects left like us. 
Marquise of the Angels, who can swell his purses with money to the 
size of melons. I think Wood-Bottom is pretty fond of me/ 

‘He is fond of me too/ said Angelique. 

She conjured up the impressive face of Wood-Bottom. Who sus- 
pected the clandestine strolls lovely Marquise du Plessis-Belliere, 
masked and dressed inconspicuously, sometimes took to the very end of 
the Faubourg Saint-Denis? Every week her house-servants, whom she 


had chosen from among her former underworld companions, brought 
to his lair baskets of fine wines, chickens, and roasts. 

‘Never fear, Marquise of the Angels/ Barcarole murmured, ‘we know 
how to keep a secret. Just don’t ever forget that you will never be alone 
in danger . . . not even here/ He turned and with his stumpy arm 
made a sweeping gesture that embraced the whole splendid room. 
‘Here! In the palace of the King, where everyone is more alone and 
more in danger than any place else on this earth.’ 

The first courtiers began to appear, hiding yawns behind lace cuffs, 
their wooden heels clicking on the marble floor. Servants were carrying 
piles of logs and starting fires in the tremendous fireplaces. 

‘The “old woman” will be along any minute. Look, there she is.’ 

Ang£lique caught a glimpse of a woman of indeterminate age 
wrapped in a hooded cloak. On her grey hair she wore a peasant’s 
starched coif made of fine lawn. Some of the nobles bent their knee 
slightly as she passed, but she seemed not to see them. She continued 
on her way with majestic serenity. 

‘Where is she going?’ 

‘To the King. It’s Madame Hamelin, his old nurse. She still keeps her 
privilege of entering his room in the morning before anyone else at 
all. She draws back the curtains and kisses him in bed, asks if he’s slept 
well and how he feels. They chat a bit. All the while the great of this 
world are fidgeting outside the door. After she leaves, no one sees her 
the rest of the day. Who knows what secret room she spins away in? 
She’s a bird of night. And every day princes, cardinals, ministers of 
state gnash their teeth at seeing this humble little person from the 
back streets of Paris favoured with the Monarch’s first smile of the 
day, and often getting his first indulgence.’ 

On the heels of the nurse came three doctors in the black gowns, full 
white-ringleted wigs and peaked hats that signified their high calling. 
One by one they felt the King’s pulse, inquired after his health, ex- 
changed a few Latin words among themselves, and departed. 

Then came the First Entrance - the Princes of the Blood. As they 
bowed low before him, the King got out of bed. The Grand Chamber- 
lain handed him his dressing-gown which the First Lord of the Bed- 
chamber had been holding ready. His Majesty retained the right of 
putting on his long-hose himself. Then one of the high dignitaries 
knelt to fasten on his garters. 

The act of presenting the royal shirt was the perquisite of the First 


Nobleman of the realm, and there was a wait while he strode proudly 
into the room at the head of the Second Entrance - the high nobility 
and specially authorised lords. When the King was in his shirt, the 
First Lord of the Bedchamber handed him the right cuff, and the 
First Lord of the Wardrobe handed him the left. 

Then came the Third Entrance - Dukes and Peers - jostling one 
another as with many low bows they unfolded the King's knee-length 
waistcoat, brocaded like a field of flowers tossing in the wind. 

The Master of the Wardrobe exercised his privilege of fastening the 
King’s jabot, but the Lord of the Neckcloths was permitted by right 
to adjust it, and did so. 

The Fourth Entrance was composed of the Secretaries of State. The 
Fifth was the Ambassadors. The Sixth, in crimson and purple, was the 
Cardinals and Bishops. Little by litde the King's bedchamber filled up 

The King glanced at the company, bowed to each, and made a mental 
note of the absentees. He put several questions to them to inform him 
self on the latest gossip, and seemed amused if any gave him a witty 
answer. And the Elect of Paradise - in terms of Versailles - thinking 
of the simple mortals condemned to wait outside the golden gates, 
tasted the inexpressible joy of being able to gaze upon the King in his 

Angelique watched file past all those sanctified for entrance into the 
holy of holies. 

*We are the souls in Purgatory,' laughed one of the women near her. 
They were decked out in all their finery, striving to be in the front row 
when the King and Queen returned along this passageway from the 

The Marquis du Plessis-Belliere had been one of the Second 
Entrance. Angelique waited to be sure that she saw him go into the 
Royal Bedchamber. Then she dashed up to the attic, taking pains not 
to lose her way in the labyrinth of corridors which reeked of orris root 
and candle-grease, and were full of confusion. 

La Violette was humming as he polished his master’s swords. He 
offered to lace Madame la Marquise’s stays, but Angelique put him out 
unequivocally. Without waiting to go in search of Javotte or some 
chambermaid, she dressed herself as well as she could. Then she ran 
back and arrived in time to see the Queen’s procession go by. 

The Queen had a red nose, in spite of the powder with which she 
had covered her artfully made-up face. She had wept the whole night 

through, for the King, as she tearfully confided to her intimates, had 
not come near her -‘not even for one litde hour’. This was an un- 
usual occurrence, for the King always was scrupulous about keeping 
up appearances by slipping into his wife’s bed for at least ‘one little 
hour’. Quite often he even remained there all night, but at least he 
always paid her a visit. The La Valliere had inflamed his passions in 
her role of Diana the Huntress the previous day. 

The Queen’s retinue merged with that of La Valliere as they 
approached the chapel together. Marie-Therese held her head high, 
though her Hapsburg chin trembled with the sobs she was suppressing. 
The Favourite bowed low before her. When she rose again Angelique 
saw the hunted look in her soft blue eyes. Here in the glorious light of 
Versailles she was no longer the huntress, but the doe at bay. Angelique 
knew she had been right; the royal favour was ebbing, if it was not 
already gone. Marie-Therese had small reason to fear her. Not far away 
were rivals ready and much more formidable. 

Presently the King returned from the chapel and went out into the 
gardens. He had been told that some of the scrofulous from near by had 
heard of his stay and had gathered behind the gates in the hope of 
receiving the royal touch. The King could never refuse to bestow this 
miraculous gift. There were not many of them, and the ceremony was 
soon over. Then His Majesty moved on to receive the petitions of the 
troopers in the Salon of Diana. 

A young man in the King’s suite pushed through the crowd and 
bowed before Angelique. ‘His Majesty wishes to remind Madame du 
Plessis-Belliere that he fully expects her presence at the very start of the 
hunt tomorrow.’ 

‘My thanks to His Majesty/ she said, taut with emotion. ‘Pray tell 
him that death alone will prevent me from being there.’ 

‘His Majesty does not require so much. But he has made it clear that 
if you should be prevented, he would like to know the reason.’ 

‘You may assure him he shall, Monsieur de Louvois. That is your 
name, isn’t it?’ 

‘It is indeed.’ 

1 should like to speak with you. Would that be possible?’ 

Louvois seemed astonished, but he said that if Madame du Plessis 
would remain in the corridor, he could perhaps join her as soon as the 
King retired to his conference room after receiving petitions. 

‘I shall be waiting. Meanwhile, please assure His Majesty that I 
shall be at the hunt tomorrow/ 

‘No, you shall not/ said the voice of Philippe in her ear. ‘Madame, 

5 2 

a wife owes obedience to her husband. I never gave you permission to 
appear at Court. You came here against my will. I now order you to 
leave and return to Paris/ 

‘Philippe, you are absurd/ Angelique replied in a voice as low as his. 
‘Absurd, and not very subtle either. It is to your advantage for me to 
appear at Court. What right have you to torment me so?' 

‘You tormented me first/ 

‘Don’t be childish. Let me alone/ 

‘Only if you leave Versailles this minute/ 


‘You shall not go to the hunt tomorrow/ 

‘Go I will!’ 

Louvois had gone back to the King’s suite and so had not heard their 
argument, but their neighbours looked at them mockingly. The 
domestic quarrels of the Plessis-Bellieres were becoming famous. Next 
to them, pretending to be looking in another direction, was the young 
Marquise de la Valliere with her supercilious, bird-like profile. 

To escape being laughed at, Angelique burst out with, 'All right, 
Philippe, 111 leave. Let’s not discuss it any more/ 

She crossed the corridor and took refuge in one of the great rooms 
where there were fewer people to observe her. ‘If I had a place at 
Court/ she kept saying to herself, ‘I could depend on the whim of the 
King, not on that wild man’s/ 

How to get this grant, and as quickly as possible, was her immediate 
problem. That is why she had seized upon Louvois while he was talking 
to her. Her businessman’s imagination was at work. She remembered 
that when she had started her five-50/5 carriage trade in Paris she had 
been told about Louvois, a great courtier and politician and the owner 
of the franchise to operate the mail coach and baggage vans between 
Lyons and Grenoble. 

This was certainly the same Louvois. She had not thought him so 
young, but she did not forget that he was the son of Le Tellier, 
Secretary of State and Chancellor of the King for the High Council. She 
would make a business deal with him and try to enlist his support and 
his father’s as well. 

The Marquis de la Valliere was tacking from group to group, looking 
for Angelique. Her first manoeuvre was to disappear. Then she changed 
her tactics. She had heard a good deal about this Marquis de la Valliere, 
having been very much on the alert for mutual acquaintances who 
could tell her about him. He knew the Court better than anyone else. 
She might learn a great deal from him. 


*1 don’t think the King was very hard on you for being late to the 
hunt yesterday/ he said when he met up with her. 

‘And is that why you dare pursue your little intrigue with me?’ she 
thought. She forced him into conversation, but when she spoke to him 
about a place at Court, he laughed pityingly. 

‘My poor litde girl, you must be out of your mind. You would have 
to kill off not one but ten persons to create a vacancy for even the most 
insignificant post. Don’t you know that all the offices of the King’s and 
the Queen’s bedchamber are sold only by quarters?’ 

‘What does that mean?’ 

That one gets them for only three months. After that they are put 
up at auction. It annoys the King, for he is all the time seeing new 
faces in positions where he would prefer to have persons who know the 
ropes. Since he does not want to part with Bontemps, his chief valet, at 
any cost, he must be continually helping him not only to buy back his 
place but even to pay for his right to buy it back. That makes others 

‘Lord, how complicated! Can’t the King assert himself and put an 
end to these weird transactions?’ 

Tie has to try to keep everyone happy,’ said the Marquis de la 
Valliere, with a gesture revealing that so far as he was concerned such 
strange customs were as unavoidable as the changes of the seasons. 

‘How do you yourself get around them? People say you are very well 
provided for.’ 

They exaggerate. I hold a position as Lieutenant of the King, which 
as far as pay goes is one of the smallest. With four squadrons to equip 
and maintain, and my rank to uphold at Court, I would never manage 
if I didn’t have some ideas of my own . . . And now, my lovely 
Marquise, I must leave you, for I suspect the King will want to return 
to the gardens very soon.’ 

Louvois returned. As he passed by her he bowed slightly and whis- 
pered that much to his regret he had been obliged to attend the King 
during a second audience, following which it would be a pleasure 
for him to devote a few moments to her, for after that he would 
have to serve the King at table and would not have another moment 
for her. 

Angelique agreed resignedly. She was beginning to admire the young 
King’s capacity for work. He had not gone to bed until three o’clock in 
the morning, but he was up and at Mass at six, and ever since had been 
attending to his business without stopping. 

As he prepared to leave her, Louvois steered her towards a young man 


so wretchedly dressed that he seemed out of place in that elegant 
assemblage. His powdered wig and his lace jabot, both of which seemed 
unaccustomed articles of dress to him, made his tanned face appear even 
darker. He bowed stiffly. 

'Yes/ he said, confirming Louvois’ introduction, ‘I am the envoy from 
lie Dauphine/ 1 

The weight of a hand on her shoulder made her jump. She looked up 
to see a dark-clad person whom, try as she might, she could not place. 
A low, hoarse voice, full of authority and uncompromising, echoed in 
her ears. ‘Madame. You must give me an opportunity to speak to you 
about that at once/ 

‘About what, sir?’ Angelique asked. 

Suddenly she remembered that this was Monsieur Colbert, the new 
Comptroller, and member of the Supreme Council. 

Colbert led Angelique by the hand to a corner of the balcony out- 
side. On the way he signalled to one of the clerks he had with him to 
bring him the contents of a large black velvet sack in which were a 
number of ledgers. He drew out one with a yellow binding. 

‘Madame, I think you know that I am neither a courtier nor a noble- 
man, but a tradesman - a draper. Now, thanks to the business we did 
together, I have learned that although you are a noble you are also a 
business woman. To come to the point, it is as a member of the mer- 
chants' guild that I approach you for advice/ 

He was trying to give his little speech a light touch, but he did not 
have the art to do so. Angelique was incensed. When would people stop 
throwing her chocolate business up at her ! 

She pursed her lips, but then, looking at Colbert, she saw that in spite 
of the frosty air his forehead was beaded with perspiration. His wig was 
askew and he had obviously hurried his barber that morning. Her 
antagonism melted. Why should she be difficult? 

‘I was indeed in business/ she said, hut in nothing so important as 
your enterprises, sir. How can I help you?' 

‘As yet I do not know, Madame. Perhaps you can tell me. I discovered 
your name on a list of shareholders in the East India Company. What 
held my attention was that I was aware you are one of the nobility. 
Hence you are in an unusual position, and since your business prospered, 
I thought you might enlighten me on certain details I am lacking about 
the operation of that company/ 

‘My Lord Minister, you know as well as I that that company, just 
like the Society of One Hundred which imitated it and in which I also 

1 Subsequently renamed Madagascar. 



had five shares, traded with the Americas. Today they are not worth a 

‘I am not speaking of the value of those shares, which, as a matter of 
fact, are no longer quoted, but of the profits you made, whereas every- 
one else lost money/ 

‘My only real profit was that I learned you don't get something for 
nothing. I paid through the nose for that lesson. The whole business 
was run by thieves. They expected stupendous gains from doing nothing, 
whereas any results from business in those distant lands are always the 
fruit of hard work/ 

The hard lines that lack of sleep had carved in Colbert's face softened 
into a kind of smile that was expressed more by his eyes than by his 
lips. ‘What you have just told me is rather like my own motto: “Nothing 
without work''/ 

‘The harder the effort, the sweeter the task/ Angelique quoted at 
him quickly, raising a finger. ‘Application makes work play.' 

The smile spread across the face of the cold Comptroller, making hi m 
almost pleasant-looking. 

‘I see you even know the wording of my report on the said company/ 
he said. *1 wonder if any other of the shareholders took the trouble to 
read it.' 

‘I wanted to know what a person of your great experience would think. 
The undertaking seemed so logical and to have such a potential.' 

‘But how did you imagine such an undertaking could succeed?' the 
Comptroller asked quickly. Then he resumed his dry, monotonous 
manner as he enumerated the secret possessions of Madame du Plessis- 
Belliere, alias Madame Morens: ‘A whole share in the ship St John the 
Baptist , armed with twelve cannon to trade and bring back cocoa and 
pepper and spices and precious woods from Martinique and Santo 
Domingo . . / 

‘Correct,' said Angelique. ‘I had to keep my chocolate business going/ 

‘You put the pirate Guinan in command of it.' 

‘I did.' 

‘Were you unaware when you took him into your service that he had 
previously worked for Fouquet, who was then in prison? Did you think 
of the serious consequences of such action, or did Fouquet advise you to 
do it?' 

‘I never had occasion to talk with Fouquet,' Angelique said. ‘I believe 
he was a dangerous man because his great wealth gave him power. He 
abused it. But, to give the devil his due, he knew how to choose his 
associates. Sheer chance brought me Guinan. He was an excellent sea- 


man and a good trader. He was in hiding then, greatly concerned at 
having lost his patron. I thought he was the only one who could 
rescue my investments after the collapse of the East India Company, in 
which I had confidently sunk a lot of money. Then 1 took him into my 
employ. I have a horror of messes. Furthermore I was inspired by an 
example from on high/ 

‘What do you mean?’ 

The King. He punishes those he deems guilty, but he is not one to let 
a man of talent slip out of his grasp. In my own modest way I em- 
ployed the pirate, but I was ready to give him up to the King if he 
demanded his services/ 

She had spoken with spirit, but she finished with a disarming smile. 
Nevertheless she was far from feeling comfortable. Colbert had been a 
bitter enemy of Fouquet, and he had slyly set the trap in which Fouquet 
had eventually been snared. Everything the former Comptroller had 
done was now exposed. 

‘That boat you sent to trade in America, why didn’t you send it to 
the Indies?’ Colbert asked bluntly. 

T thought of it. But a single French boat wouldn’t have been able to 
carry it off, and I could not afford several/ 

‘But your John the Baptist sailed to America without accident/ 

‘There was nothing to fear from the Barb ary pirates. They give a 
single ship no chance to get beyond the Cape Verde Islands. If it is 
not asked where it’s bound as it sails, it will be when it returns/ 

‘What about the ships of the Dutch and English East India Companies 
which are not molested?’ 

They sail in flotillas. Twenty or thirty ships of considerable tonnage 
leave Liverpool or The Hague together, and accomplish their purpose/ 
‘Why don’t the French do likewise?’ 

‘Sir, if you don’t know, how in the world do you expect me to? Possibly 
it’s a matter of temperament, or of money. For instance, how could I 
alone equip a fleet? The French need a revitualling station half-way on 
the long route to the East Indies/ 

‘At lie Dauphine, for instance?’ 

Tes, providing the military or any other government authority has 
nothing to do with administering it/ 

‘Who would manage it then?’ 

‘Why, men accustomed to dealing with new lands in trade and com- 
merce. I mean merchants/ 

Angelique had been speaking forcefully, but suddenly she started to 


‘Madame, we are discussing a serious matter/ said Colbert. 

‘I am sorry, but I couldn’t help thinking of an ultra-sophisticated 
nobleman like the Marquis de la Valliere in charge of such a station 
among savage tribes/ 

‘Madame, do you doubt his courage? I know for a fact that he has 
given many proofs of it in the King’s service/ 

It’s not a question of courage, but of just what he would do if he 
landed on a beach there and saw a horde of stark-naked savages 
descending upon him. He would butcher half of them and make the 
rest slaves/ 

‘Slaves are a staple of trade. They can amortise an entire invest- 

T won’t deny that, but it’s not a good way to establish factories and 
found an industry in a country. You could say it’s the methods the 
French use that block their success and get them massacred every so 
often after they have settled in a place/ 

Colbert gave her a not unappreciative look. ‘Devil take it, if I relied 
on . . / He scratched his stubbly chin. ‘I have learned more in these 
ten minutes than in many sleepless nights spent poring over those 
damned reports/ 

‘Sir, my advice is subject to caution. I listen to the recriminations of 
the merchants and the sailors, but . . / 

‘You can’t overlook what they say. Thank you, Madame. You would 
do me a great favour if you would consent to wait a half-hour for me in 
the antechamber/ 

‘I can bear up for just about half an hour/ she said. 

She returned to the antechamber, where the Marquis de la Valli&re 
informed her with malicious pleasure that Louvois had asked for her 
and then had gone to luncheon. 

Angelique checked her gesture of disappointment. It was just her 
luck. She was especially eager for an interview with the young Minister 
of War to ask him for a position at Court, and now thanks to her un- 
expected meeting with Colbert, who had done nothing but talk about 
maritime trade, she had missed her opportunity. She had no time to 
lose. Who could tell what fiendish notion was even now germinating in 
Philippe’s brain? If she resisted him too openly, it would not be at all 
beyond him to have her locked up. Husbands had absolute authority 
over their wives. She had to get firmly rooted here before it was too 

Angelique almost stamped her foot with rage and disappointment. 
They doubled when she heard the courtiers say that His Majesty was 


postponing his audiences till the next day and that everyone might as 
well leave. 

Just as she reached the exit, Colbert’s clerk accosted her. ‘If Madame 
la Marquise will please follow me. They are waiting for her.’ 

The room into which she was escorted had graceful proportions but 
it was less spacious than any of the salons. The only thing about it that 
was overpowering was the lofty ceiling which seemed to open on an 
Olympian expanse of blue and white clouds. At the two windows heavy 
draperies of dark blue silk embroidered with gold and silver fleur-de-lis 
matched the upholstery of the high-backed armchairs and the three 
footstools placed along one wall. Like all the other woodwork of Ver- 
sailles this was appliqued with gesso garlands and fruits and vine- 
leaves, which glistened dazzingly under a brand-new coat of gold leaf 
painstakingly applied to each excrescence of the moulding. The 
harmony of the dark blue and the gold gave the room a majestically 
sumptuous atmosphere. Angelique took it all in at a glance. It was 
definitely a man’s room. 

At the far end of the room Colbert was standing with his back towards 
her before a table made of a single slab of marble supported by gilded 
bronze legs that ended in lion’s paws. On its opposite side was the 

Angelique’s mouth dropped open. 

‘Ah, here is my informant/ said the Comptroller, turning. ‘Pray draw 
near, Madame, and tell his Majesty of your experience as ... as - well, 
a privateer in the East India Company. They throw great light on cer- 
tain aspects of the situation/ 

With the courtesy he showed every woman, even the most humble, 
Louis XIV rose and bowed to her. In confusion Angelique recalled that 
she had not yet paid him due respect. She sank into a deep curtsy, 
cursing Colbert as she did so. 

‘I know that you are not in the habit of joking. Monsieur Colbert/ 
said the King, ‘but I never expected that your reporter of viva voce 
news from the sailors would appear under the guise of a lady of my 

‘Madame du Plessis-Belliere is none the less a very important stock- 
holder in the Company. She equipped a vessel with guns and intended 
to trade with the Indies, but she had to give it up and turn her efforts 
instead toward America. She is going to tell you the reasons for her 
change in plans/ 

‘To tell the truth, sir/ Angelique said, ‘I am sorry that you attached 
such importance to my story. It is true that I have investments in mari- 


time trade. My manager of these investments frequendy complains to 
me of the difficulties of his job, but I myself know no more about 
such matters than I do about farming, even though my tenants tell me 
long tales of woe about their poor harvests/ 

Colbert turned all the colours of the rainbow. Is your litde farce quite 
finished?’ he exclaimed. ‘Just now y ou were talking to me in a highly- 
informed manner, but now you are masquerading. Are you afraid to 
speak up before the King?’ 

The King had sat down again. He trusted his Comptroller and waited 
patiendy for some enlightenment on this interview which still 
astonished him. He kept watching Angelique with a sober, perspicacious 
eye. She could read in his glance the cautious, fathoming wisdom that 
characterised most of his decisions. It was so unusual to find such a 
quality in a twenty-seven-year-old monarch that even yet few veteran 
diplomats were aware of it. 

Like him, Angelique had changed from youth to maturity within a 
surprisingly short time. Still, she had retained all the intuitive im- 
pressionability of the young. Between herself and the King she sensed 
the rapport of two quite realistic minds. 

T know Your Majesty has no liking for eccentricity. And it does seem 
to be unconventional for a lady of your Court to be involved in such 
things as commerce and shipping. I am afraid . . / 

‘You need not fear our displeasure. Nor should you try to please us 
by wandering from the truth/ said the King rather severely. ‘If 
Monsieur Colbert thinks your information can help us, it is not up to 
you to determine whether we take it well or ill. Pray speak out, 
Madame, and concern yourself only with the fact that it is your duty 
to serve our interests/ 

He did not ask her to be seated, in order to make dear to her that 
she was no better than her associates who, no matter what their age 
or station, might never sit in his presence unless he specially asked them 
to do so. 

‘So your ship gave up trading with the East Indies in spite of your 
desire to send it there and in spite of the profits you hoped to reap 
from its voyage. Most privateers, it must be acknowledged, have done 
the same. It is the reason for their reluctance to trade with the East 
that is still obscure to me/ 

Angelique began by describing the hazards presented by the Barbary 
pirates who swept the seas between Portugal and the coasts of Africa. 
For centuries their whole source of income had come from pillaging 
ships without convoys. 


‘Are you not exaggerating the danger of these pirates, Madame? 

I have heard many tales of voyages to the Indies made by French 
vessels sailing alone and. less well armed than yours. Yet these returned 
in glory from such odysseys without complaint of anything untoward 
beyond such storms as were to be expected. I have here reports of their 
voyages, including their dates of sailing and of returning. Since others 
can do it, why do you make out that your ship could not?* 

‘Because it is a merchant ship, Sire. Compare the total amounts of 
tonnage and you will solve the mystery. Most of the ships that have 
been reported to you are warships, even though they may call them- 
selves merchant vessels. They know they can escape the pirate galleys 
by their very speed. They leave their home ports with their holds prac- 
tically empty and return in the same condition. Indeed they do escape 
the pirates and complete their voyages, but such an expedition is im- 
possible on a commercial scale. A ship of heavy tonnage, laden to the 
gunwales with goods, is incapable of outdistancing the swift Algerian 
or Moroccan galleys. It’s like a fat beetle attacked by ants. Often the 
guns can’t find the range. Nothing is left but to repulse the boarders if 
possible. That is why, thanks to the sailors of the Saint John the 
Baptist , my ship has twice escaped the pirates. But not without bloody 
battles both times -once in the Gulf of Gascony, the other in the 
Adantic off Africa. Half my sailors were either wounded or killed. I 
gave up . . / 

Colbert’s face showed his satisfaction, and his admiration. Seldom 
had any matter been so clearly explained to him. 

The King was thinking. At length he said, ‘So it is a matter of 

‘Exactiy. That’s the way the Dutch and the English manage.’ 

‘I have no love for those nations, but it would be foolish for us not 
to borrow what is good from our enemies’ strategy. See to it, Colbert. 
From now on when big merchant ships are sailing, they will be con- 
voyed by warships . . Angelique’s doubtful expression stopped him. 
‘Well, Madame, is there something about this plan that strikes you as 

Irony lurked in his voice. Louis XIV could, not bring himself to take 
seriously the advice of such a pretty woman. But Angelique did not 

‘I believe, Sire, that Monsieur Colbert has not got out of all his diffi- 
culties. Frenchmen do not like to travel in groups. Each wants to go his 
own way. Some are ready to put to sea just when others cannot find the 
money for guns. Even the largest stockholders have yet to find a means 


for negotiating the necessary agreements that would make these im- 
portant armadas possible/ 

Louis XIV leaned his hand hard on the table. ‘Now they shall do so 
at the King’s order/ 

Colbert hesitated a moment, then said: ‘Madame, this may be in- 
correct information, but let me say that two years ago when the 
Montevergue expedition was setting sail for lie Dauphine you could 
have asked for the benefit of its protection on a voyage to the Indies/ 

‘Your information is correct, sir, but we couldn’t reach an agreement, 
and I do not regret it/ 

‘Why is that?’ 

‘I did not wish to become involved in an expedition that was doomed 
to failure/ 

The King coloured slightly in spite of his self-discipline. ‘Are you 
unaware that I ordered that expedition to set out for the very purpose 
of giving assistance to the launching of the East India Company and 
establishing a port of call on lie Dauphine?’ 

‘It was an excellent idea, Sire, and such a port is indispensable. But 
the ships that set out were in a shocking state of disrepair. They had 
been carelessly examined. Their captains thought only of easy conquests, 
and disregarded the fact that the port where they would have to put 
in is no Garden of Eden, or that they would have to go at least fifty 
miles into the interior of the island to get drinking water, or that the 
natives are very hostile. In short, those gentlemen were brave but im- 
practical, even Monsieur de Montevergue, their leader. They rushed 
headlong into the disastrous situation in which they are right now/ 

The King’s eyes were cold. There was a heavy silence after Ang61ique 
had spoken. She was terrified at what she might have said, yet she had 
spoken frankly just as the King had told her to do. 

‘How does it happen, Madame/ he said at last, ‘that you alone knew 
of the disastrous situation that awaited Monsieur de Montevergue in 
lie Dauphine His second-in-command landed at Bordeaux four days 
ago. He was at Versailles this morning. He had strict orders not to 
talk to anyone before he had seen me. I suspended all other business 
until I had interviewed him. He has just left/ 

‘Sire, it was no secret to seafaring men. During those two years 
foreign ships putting in at lie Daphine have frequently out of pity 
taken aboard the victims of that expedition ravaged with scurvy or 
wounded by the natives, and brought them back home.’ 

Louis XIV stared at Colbert ‘So it need not have taken Monsieur de 
Montevergue two years to send me the first report I have had of his 


expedition when he knew I was impatient to have it.’ 

There would have been the devil to pay if I had had to wait two 
years to learn of the fate of my ship!’ Angelique said. 

‘Hah!’ exclaimed the King. ‘Do you mean to say, Madame, that your 
system of communications runs more smoothly than that of the King 
of France?’ 

‘In certain ways, yes, Sire. Your Majesty can communicate only by 
direct means. Two years is not too long for the same ship to go and 
return, not counting the time that officer had to remain at lie Dauphine 
until he was rescued. Things happen differently with merchants. I made 
a bargain with the Dutch East India Company that when one of its 
ships passed mine we would exchange information/ 

The Dutch again!’ said the King humorously. ‘It would seem that 
for their own convenience French privateers enter into bargains that 
are close to treason against the realm, and consider them perfectly 

Treason is too strong a word, Sire. Are we at war with the Nether- 

‘Certainly not I But this is something that annoys me more than I 
can say, Monsieur Colbert. That France, France , do you hear, has to 
play second fiddle on the seas to those herring-fishermen! 

‘In the time of my grandfather, Henri IV, the French navy had a 
glorious name. Its strength was so great that the English, the Dutch and 
even the Venetians would borrow the French flag to sail in the Mediter- 
ranean. It assured them protection because of the “understandings” 
between France and the Sublime Porte.’ 

There were more than a thousand ships in the Mediterranean fleet 
alone then,’ said Colbert. 

‘And now?’ 

‘Fifty vessels with from twenty-four to one hundred and twenty guns. 
All five classes of ships armed the same way - frigates, fire-ships, flutes, 
galleys. It is a shame, Sire/ 

The King leaned back in his armchair, and began to ponder the 
matter, his eyes on a spot far away. His thick, flowing brown hair, 
which he wore in natural style, was silhouetted against the blue up- 
holstery on which was embroidered a gold crown surrounded by fleur- 

‘I do not intend to ask you the reasons for our having come to this 
pass,’ he said after a while. 1 know them only too well. We have not 
finished correcting all the evils that so many years of civil disorder 
brought upon us. I was still very young when I began to cast my eyes 


on all the divers parts of my realm. Not unseeing eyes, but the eyes of 
the master. I was deeply touched to find no one who did not need my 
help. There was disorder everywhere. I resolved to be padent and attack 
the most urgent matters first. The years went by. The swollen rivers 
have now returned, to their banks. Now is the time to see to the navy, 

1 shall devote myself to it. Sire/ 

The King had risen. The Comptroller bowed and began to back out 
of his presence, stopping every three steps to bow again. 

'One word more, Colbert. Do not take amiss what I am about to say 
to you, but lay it to the interest I have in you and the friendship I bear 
you. Now that you have been given the high functions that are yours, 
we should be pleased to see you take greater care of your appearance 
and your manners/ 

The Comptroller’s hand went to his chin. 'Forgive me, Your Majesty. 
Pray consider how little time I have apart from what I devote to you. 
I stayed up most of the night reading that report of Montevergue. 
Besides, I did not know that Your Majesty was remaining at Versailles, 
and I had to leave home in a great hurry/ 

'I know your devotion to me is to blame, Monsieur Colbert. Far be it 
from me to force you to waste time on ribbons and laces except to 
increase their manufacture. But no matter how modest you yourself 
may be, you should be proud of the high place you hold. The honour 
of the throne and its prestige in the eyes of the world can suffer from 
lack of elegance on the part of those who are close to it. It is not enough 
to be, one must also seem. Take note of that, if you please, and . . . 
talk it over with Madame Colbert/ * 

The smile of the King softened what could otherwise have hurt. The 
Comptroller bowed again and withdrew. Angelique, who had begun to 
feel terribly tired and was starving, started to follow him. 

The King called her back. 'Please remain, Madame/ 

He was watching Angelique closely. ‘Will you be at the hunt to- 

‘Sire, I intend to be indeed/ 

‘I shall speak to the Marquis so that he may help you keep your good 

She breathed a sigh of relief. Her smile widened. ‘Under those con- 
ditions, Sire, I am sure I can be present/ 

At this moment the First Gentleman of the King’s Command, the 
Due de Charost, appeared. 'Will His Majesty be present at the banquet, 
or does he wish to be served in private?’ 


‘Since there’s going to be a banquet, let us not disappoint the sight- 
seers who have come to Versailles for it. Let us go to luncheon.’ 

Angelique made a deep bow, then started once more for the door of 
the King’s conference room. 

His Majesty addressed her again. *1 understand you have sons. Are 
they of an age to be in service?’ 

‘Sire, they are still very young - six and eight years old.’ 

‘The same age as the Dauphin. He will soon be out from under female 
domination and will be put under the charge of a tutor. I should like 
him to have some playmates then to share his games and give him some 

Angelique bowed for the third time under the envious gaze of the 
assembled courtiers. 


A veritable army of servants under the command of their superior 
officers had laid the table and arranged the seating according to protocol. 
After he had inspected everything, the Grand Chamberlain opened the 
Banquet Hall to those members of the Court who wished to be present 
at the dining of His Majesty. They took their places in line in an 
order that had been previously determined, while in the antechambers 
and the corridors there gathered the ordinary mortals who were to be 
admitted for the mere sake of passing before the King’s table. 

The King himself appeared in the doorway, stopped a moment to 
incline his head by way of acknowledging the deep reverences of those 
already present, then entered the room with a smile and took his place 
at the table. 

Presently Monsieur, his brother, dashed up and, bowing very low, 
gave the King his napkin. 

In the antechamber the guards were urging the crowd to keep a 
passageway clear for a strange parade that moved forward like an 
ecclesiastical procession. An extremely tall guardsman led on servants 
carrying on their shoulders a huge reliquary draped with cloth of gold 
embroidered in silver. Behind them marched the High Steward, carry- 
ing his staff of office, the Gentleman Usher, the Gentleman Butler, and 
the other officers of the household staff, followed by their subordinates. 

In the reliquary was the King’s dish. 

Slowly the crowd filed past the royal table - tradesmen and their wives 
from Paris, clerks, artisans, labourers, working girls -each extracting 


from the experience everything his memory could possibly retain. They 
seemed less impressed by the gorgeous display of crystal and the 
gold service than by the sight of the King of France dining in all 
his glory. 

The King said little, but he missed nothing. Several different times 
Angelique saw him rise slightly to nod to a lady of the Court as she 
entered and waited for the Chamberlain to rush up to her with a foot- 
stool. But for other Court ladies, there was neither a nod nor a footstool. 
These were the more numerous - the ‘unseatable’ of whom Angelique 
herself was one. Her legs were growing numb with fatigue. 

Madame de Choisy, next to her, whispered: 1 heard the King was 
talking to you about your boys just a while ago. How lucky you are, 
my dear! Don’t hesitate for one moment. Your sons will go far if you 
train them like this to associate only with people of quality. They will 
get used early to being agreeable, and that manner of being completely 
at home anywhere, which only life at Court can give, will stay with 
them the rest of their lives. Look at my son, the Abbe. I brought him up 
that way ever since he was a tiny tot. He is not quite twenty, yet he 
has learned how to make his way so subdy that now he is on the verge 
of getting a bishopric/ 

Angelique, however, was for the moment less concerned about the 
future of Florimond and Cantor than she was about getting something 
to eat and, if possible, sitting down. She left the Banquet Hall as dis- 
creetly as she could, and fell in with a few ladies who had gathered 
around one of the card tables. Footmen were passing them platters of 
dainties in which the elegant ladies were foraging with their fingers 
without once taking their eyes off the cards. 

A tall, heavy woman rose and kissed Angelique on both cheeks. It was 
the Grande Mademoiselle. *1 am always delighted to see you, dear. It 
seems to me you have been rather snubbing the Court lately. Many 
times these last few months I have wondered where you were, but I 
did not dare ask the King. Between us, you know, every session begins 
badly and ends worse. Still, he is my cousin and we do understand each 
other. But you’re here at last, anyway. You look as if you were trying to 
find someone/ 

‘If Your Highness will excuse me, I’m trying to find a place to sit 

The generous princess looked around her in dismay. ‘You really can’t 
sit here. Madame is with us/ 

‘My rank does not allow me to sit in your presence either, Your 


‘There you are mistaken. You are a lady of the nobility and I am only 
a kind of granddaughter of France, through Henri IV, my grand- 
father. So you do have the right to sit in my presence either on a 
hassock or a footstool, and I would gladly let you. But with Madame 
here, who is a daughter of France through her marriage to Monsieur, it 
is absolutely impossible/ 

1 understand/ Angelique let a little sigh escape her. 

‘But/ continued the Grande Mademoiselle, ‘come and join our game. 
We're looking for another player. Madame d'Orignys has just left after 
losing every sou she had/ 

‘How can I play without sitting down?' 

*But you can sit down/ said the Princess. ‘Come on now/ 

She led Angelique up to curtsy before Madame, who was encumbered 
with her cards in one hand, and a chicken wing in the other. She smiled 
absently at Angelique. 

But Angelique had no sooner sat than Madame de Montespan sailed 
up and grabbed her arm. ‘Hurry, this is the time for me to present you 
to the Queen/ 

Angelique stammered out some excuse or other and dashed after her 

‘Athenais/ she said trying to catch up with her, ‘you'll have to put 
me straight about all this footstool business. I don't know what they're 
talking about. When and why and under what conditions and with what 
rank can a Court lady set her behind down on a seat?' 

‘Almost never. Certainly not before the King, or before the Queen 
either, unless she belongs to the royal family. Still, there are all kinds 
of rules and all kinds of exceptions to the rules. Why, to have the 
right to sit on a footstool is everyone’s dream, and has been ever since 
the time of the Druids. Then it was a privilege granted only to men, 
but it still survives and it has been extended to women also. The foot- 
stool is a symbol of the highest rank or of the highest favour. You get 
it only when you become a member of the King's or the Queen's house- 
hold. But then, of course, there are special conditions/ 

‘Such as?' 

‘Playing cards, for instance. If you are playing, you can sit even in 
the presence of the sovereigns. And also if you are doing needlework. 
You have to have your fingers busy about something that looks like 
work. Some get by with just holding a ribbon. You see, you can get 
around it by all sorts of means/ 

The Queen was in the hands of her women, who were arraying her 
and doing her hair for the evening's entertainments. On one table lay 


open the cases in which were some of the Crown jewels which she was 
trying on one by one -diamond chokers, ear-rings of pear-shaped 
oriental diamonds said to be the largest in the world, bracelets, tiaras. 

Angelique made innumerable curtsies and kissed the Queen’s hand. 
Then she withdrew a little. Her mind went back to the Infanta whom 
she had seen at St Jean de Luz the evening of her marriage to the 
King. Where now were those silky ash-blond locks combed over wire 
frames, the heavy Spanish skirts stretched, as befitted her ancient 
lineage, over huge farthingales? Now the Queen was gowned in the 
French style, which was less becoming to her full figure. Her porcelain 
skin and her delicate colouring, which the gloomy Spanish palaces had 
kept intact, were heavily rouged. Her nose could now be red from 
weeping, and no one would notice it. Angelique was astonished at the 
way this poor homesick little woman had managed to retain so much 
of her natural majesty. In spite of her piety and her lack of wit, she 
had a certain light touch, and her Spanish temperament was clearly 
visible in her jealous rages and passion towards the King. She loved 
Court entertainments and the artificiality of life there, and the smallest 
sign of attention from the King completely delighted her simple soul. 

Noticing that Angelique was staring at her, she said: ‘One should look 
that way, not this way.’ The diamond collar flashed from her throat. 

Barcarole, who was playing in a corner with the Queen’s lap dogs, 
winked at Angelique conspiratorily. 

The weather was pleasant, and so everyone went for a stroll through 
the gardens. Then as soon as the lamps were lit everyone ran to his room 
to change his clothes. 

Angelique dressed in the antechamber of the Queen’s Maids of 
Honour. Madame de Montespan called her attention to the fact that the 
jewels she had brought were too simple for the Court. There was no time 
for her to send back to the Hotel de Beautreillis in Paris for other 
ones; but two jewellers from Lombardy, who were attached to the 
Court, came to her rescue. For a modest rental they loaned their quite 
handsome wares for a few hours, but not until after their clients had 
signed a pile of papers guaranteeing that they would not disappear with 
the ornaments they had borrowed. 

Angelique signed, and handed over the ‘modest’ rental, which came 
to two hundred livres. For that amount she could have bought at least 
two fine bracelets. Then she went down to the great hall on the ground 
floor where the theatre had been set up. 

The King had already taken his seat. The strict etiquette had not 
left a single bench available, and Angelique in the rear of the hall had 

to be content with sensing the action of the play from the bursts of 
laughter that came from the front rows. 

‘What do you think of Moliere’s message?’ said a voice in her ear. 
Wery instructive, isn’t it?’ 

The voice was so pleasant that Angelique thought she was dreaming 
when she turned to see Philippe standing near her. He was a vision in 
a suit of pink satin trimmed with silver braid. Only his high colour 
and his blond moustache kept him from appearing ridiculous in it. He 
was smiling. 

Angelique forced herself to reply casually. ‘It’s one of Moli&re’s 
quaintest, but from where I am I can’t see a thing.’ 

‘What a pity ! Let me help you to a better position.’ 

He slipped an arm around her waist and led her along. People cheer- 
fully moved out of their way. The high favour in which Philippe basked 
made others deferential to them. In addition his rank of Marshal 
granted him many prerogatives, such as being able to drive his coach 
into the courtyard of the Louvre or to sit in the King’s presence. Never- 
theless, his wife did not enjoy these. 

They easily found a place at the right of the stage. They still had 
to stand, but they could see perfectly. 

‘This is a good spot,’ Philippe said. *We can see the play, and the 
King can see us. What could be better?’ 

He had not taken his arm from Angelique’s waist. Now he was lean- 
ing his face so close to hers that his silky locks tickled her cheek. 

‘Do you have to stand so close?’ she whispered. After reflection she 
had decided that this new attitude of her husband was rather sus- 

‘Yes, I do. Your shocking behaviour has put the King on guard. I 
do not want him to have any doubt whatever of my loyalty to him. 
His slightest wish is my command.’ 

‘Ah, so that’s what it is!’ 

‘That’s what it is. Just keep on staring at me straight in the eye. 
Then no one can doubt that Monsieur and Madame du Plessis-Belliere 
are not reconciled.’ 

‘Is that important, too?' 

The King wishes it.' 

‘Oh, you are . . 

‘Be still.' 

His arm was like a band of steel although his voice was level. 

‘You’re squeezing me. Don’t be such a brute!’ 

‘How I would like to be. Be patient, perhaps I yet may be. But this is 


not the time or the place . . . Look, Amulphe is making Agn&s read 
the eleven rules of conduct for marriage. Listen closely, Madame/ 
Angelique found it impossible to pay as full attention to the play as 
she wished. It bothered her to have Philippe so close to her. If I could 
only believe/ she thought, ‘that he was holding me tight without any 
grudges, without even remembering our quarrels/ 

She half wanted to turn to him and say: ‘Philippe, let’s stop acting like 
surly, spoiled children. We have lots of things in common that could 
hold us together. I truly believe it. You are still the big cousin I wor- 
shipped and dreamed about vt hen I was a girl/ 

She stole a glance at him, surprised to find that his concern for her 
had not affected his magnificent body, so virile in spite of his effeminate 
costume. Let the scandal-mongers spread all the hideous tales they 
wanted about the Marquis du Plessis-Belliere, he was no petty noble, no 
Chevalier de Lorraine. He was the god of war himself - Mars, hard, 
implacable, and cold as marble. 

He wore his vices as he did his clothes, with assurance and style and 
even perhaps with a secret boredom. But behind this front was all the 
passionate warmth of a man who seemed devoid of the most basic feel- 
ings. Angelique could not help feeling that she was no more than a 
wooden statue to him. It was a depressing thought. 

In The School for Wives Moliere was writing of all men, whether 
businessmen or gentlemen, who storm when they are deceived, yet 
make themselves ridiculous for the sake of a pair of sparkling eyes and 
change colour whenever a pretty girl leans against them flirtatiously. 
But on a man like Philippe du Plessis-Belliere all the great playwright/s 
knowledge of human nature seemed lost. How could she reach him? 

‘Moliere is very facile/ Philippe said a little later when, the play 
being over, they were returning to the ballroom by way of the gardens. 
‘He never forgets that he is writing for the King and the Court, so he 
puts everything in terms of the common people. But he knows human 
nature so well that everyone can recognise himself in these characters 
without giving himself away/ 

‘Philippe is not so stupid after all/ Angelique thought. 

He had taken her arm. She grew apprehensive. 

‘Don’t act as if I were going to burn you/ Philippe said. ‘I agree not 
to embarrass you in public. In hunting, the idea is to box one’s game 
into an inescapable position and then face it. Well, let’s get to the point. 
You won the first round in forcing me to marry you. I won the second 
by punishing you slightly, less than you deserved. You won again by 
coming to Versailles in spite of my forbidding it, and being received 


there. I acknowledge that Now we go into the next match. I won the 
first round in kidnapping you. You won the second by escaping. I should 
really like to know how. In short, we're even. Who is going to win the 
next match?' 

That’s up to fate.’ 

‘And the strength of one’s weapons. Perhaps you will win again. Your 
chances are good. But I want to warn you of one thing, I will win in 
the end. I have a wide reputation for being persistent and sticking to 
my guns. How much will you bet that some day you will end up, thanks 
to me, spinning thread in a convent, with no hope of ever getting out?' 

‘How much will you bet that some day you are going to be madly in 
love with me?’ 

Philippe froze. His breathing was heavy, as if this suggestion had 
overwhelmed him with anger. 

‘All right, let’s make a bet,’ said Angelique, ‘since you proposed it. If 
you win, I shall give you all my money, my business and my ships. 
What good will they do me if I am to be shut up in a convent, starved, 
and reduced to babbling idiocy by your torments?. 

‘You’re laughing,’ he said, staring at her. ‘Well, go ahead and laugh!’ 
he added menacingly. 

‘What am I supposed to do? I can’t weep all the time.’ 

Still tears sprang to her eyes. As she raised her head to return his 
stare, he saw at the base of her slender throat, under the necklace she 
had rented, the bruises he had given her. 

‘If I win, Philippe,’ she murmured, ‘I shall demand that you give me 
the gold chain which has been in your family since the days of the first 
kings, and which the eldest son in each generation is supposed to hang 
about the neck of his fiancee. I don’t exactly recall the legend that is 
attached to it, but I know they say in the country it has magic powers 
and gives the Plessis-Belliere women courage and virtue. You had no use 
for this tradition.’ 

‘You had no need for it,’ Philippe answered quickly. And leaving her 
there, he strode away towards the palace. 

So many thoughts raced through Angelique’s brain on her return trip 
that the journey in the hack from Versailles to Paris seemed short. She 
could hardly believe that three whole days had gone by. All her new 
experiences at Versailles had raised her to a fever pitch of excitement, 
had fascinated her and worried her, but had clearly delighted her as 
well. It would take her a long time to sort out all her many different 


impressions. The pomp and the merry-making this time had overruled 
the hubbub of that highly conventionalised society which was usually 
as formally organised as a ballet and as likely to erupt as a smoking 

The comparative calm of her h6tel on the Rue Beautreillis was a com- 
fort. Her joints were stiff from all the thousands of curtsies she had had 
to make; a courtier’s life, she concluded, must do a great deal for keep- 
ing one’s muscles supple even into advanced age. She was out of training. 

Angelique had a light supper of soup, a ragout of carp roe and 
blanched barley, and a salad of cabbage shoots that was then called 
broccoli. She went to bed and slept soundly. 

In the morning the first thing she did was to write her father in 
Poitou, entreating him to come to Paris at once with all her servants and 
her two sons, Florimond and Cantor, who had been in his charge for 
several months. But when she rang for her private letter carrier, Roger 
reminded her that he had disappeared several days ago with the horses, 
as had all the stable help. Madame la Marquise had forgotten that her 
stables were empty of carriages, horses and men except for two sedan 

It was hard for Angelique to restrain herself before her servant. She 
told Roger to discharge every one of those traitors when they came 
back, and withhold their last wages. Roger remarked that there was 
little chance of ever seeing them again, for they had already been hired 
by Monsieur le Marquis du Plessis-Belliere. Besides, he explained, most 
of them had seen nothing wrong in taking the horses and carriages of 
the Marquise to the Marquis’s stables. 

T am the one who gives orders here !’ said Angelique. 

She told Roger to get to the Place de Greve as quickly as possible and 
hire some new footmen, then to the fair at Saint-Denis for some horses - 
four, plus two saddle-horses for spares. Then he was to go to the 
carriage-maker at the sign of the Gilded Wheel who had made her 
former coaches. It was like throwing money out of the window. Philippe 
had committed a theft, no more no less. Why couldn’t she turn him 
over to the sergeants of the night-watch or to a court of justice? No, 
there was nothing for her but to submit, and that was the hardest thing 
for her to do. 

‘What about the letter that Madame la Marquise wishes sent to 
Poitou?’ asked Roger. 

‘Get it there by die fastest public post possible.’ 

The public post does not leave till Wednesday.’ 

‘That doesn’t matter. The letter can wait.' 

7 * 

To calm her nerves Angelique had herself carried in a sedan chair to 
the Quai de la Megisserie, where her tropical bird shop was. She selected 
a gaudily plumaged parrot that swore like a pirate, reflecting that this 
would not offend the ears of Athenais. Quite the contrary, as a matter 
of fact. 

She also added to her gift a little negro dressed as gaudily as the bird 
in an orange turban, a green waistcoat, red breeches, and red stockings 
with gold cloches. What with patent-leather shoes as shiny as his face, he 
looked like one of those wooden Venetian torcheres that had just 
come into vogue. 

Angelique knew Madame de Montespan would appreciate her 
generosity. It was well worth while. So long as those fools were deter- 
mined to see her as the next favourite, however faulty their informa- 
tion, Athenais was almost the only one who could steer her on the right 
course. How stupid people are, she thought 1 

The following day Angelique decided that she could not do without 
the atmosphere of the Court, and set out for Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 
which for three years now Louis XIV had made his favourite residence. 

chapter six 

After the first snowfall, which came early that year, the Court moved 
to Fontainebleau, where the peasants had besought the aid of their 
feudal lord, the King of France, to help them rid the countryside of 
ravaging wolves. 

The grey clouds hung low as the long line of coaches, vans, men on 
foot and on horseback, filed past fields that slept under an unspotted 
blanket of white. An entire city was on the march, transporting every- 
thing from the ‘King's Mouth' to the King's chapel to the King's apart- 
ments adjoining those of the Queen, the tennis court, the guard-house, 
the hunting equipment, even sumptuous tapestries to deaden the 
clammy chill of the walls. They would be there for a week's wolf-hunt, 
and there would be balls, plays and delightful late suppers in the Spanish 
fashion, called ‘midnights'. 

As night came on, the pitch torches were lighted, and the procession 
arrived at the gates in a kind of shower of dripping flame. 

Angelique was looking everywhere for Philippe - whether because she 
wanted to see him or was afraid to, she could not decide. She had no 
reason to suppose that any good would come from their meeting; he 
would have nothing for her but harsh words and sour looks. Probably 

1 % 

it was better that he did ignore her and was far less chivalrous to her 
than to any other woman in the Court. He seemed to have forgotten 
her existence, but perhaps that was simply a truce inspired by the King’s 
suggestion. She kept herself continually on the alert, for she knew that 
when she did see Philippe she would not be able to suppress her complex 
feelings towards him of humble admiration and secret hope that her 
dreams of long ago might come true. Then she was just a gawky little 
girl enraptured by her glamorous blond cousin. 

‘How long,’ she thought, ‘the dreams of childhood take to die!’ 

The first day she was at Fontainebleau there was no sign of Philippe. 
He was too busy preparing the hunt. The courtiers were trying to outdo 
one another in telling how terrorised the peasants were by die savage 
wolves. Sheep had been carried off right from the fold. A ten-year-old 
child had been attacked and devoured. An especially dangerous pack 
seemed to be led by a huge male - ‘as big as a cow’, said the locals, who 
had seen him prowling on the very edges of the hamlets. Nothing 
daunted him. At night you could hear him snarling and slavering at the 
cottage doors, while inside the children clung to their mothers and 
sobbed with terror. No one went out after dusk. 

The hunt suddenly took on the impassioned dimensions of a crusade 
as everyone prepared to attack this monster. Hundreds of peasants 
appeared armed with spears and pitchforks to help the whippers-in keep 
the hounds on the scent. No one stayed behind. 

Tales of such animals were the common experience of everyone. 
Hardly a one of the courtiers and ladies had not frozen with fear in 
their childhood at stories of their depredations under the very walls of 
their castles. They inherited a hatred of these bold raiders, the scourge 
of the countrysides, who spared neither noble nor serf if he foolhardily 
wandered from the highways. 

The horns of the hunt woke the echoes of the great rocks and cliffs of 
the forest of Fontainebleau, and even the marble domes of the summer- 
houses and the icicle-fringed balconies. 

Angelique had just emerged into a snow-carpeted clearing enclosed 
by such a rocky palisade that it was like being at the bottom of a mossy 
well. The brave music of the horns was wafted here in so harmonious a 
blend of notes that its melody awoke in her the sweet melancholy of the 
memory of old, forgotten, far-off things. She reined in her horse and 

Ah, the forest 1 How long it had been since she had thrilled to its 
magic l The raw wind, laden with the sweet scents of death -of rotted 
wood and mouldering leaves - swept away in an instant all her years 


amid the clamorous stench of Paris and took her back to her joyous early 
days in the forest of Nieul. Still clinging to the black boughs were 
scattered clutches of russet and crimson leaves, and the snow that rusded 
down from the higher branches with the soft murmur of a woodland 
spring set off these bright tones and made them sparkle in the glimmers 
of the wintry sun as if they were strewn with diamond dust. The 
bright red beads of a holly bush peeped out from the underbrush. How, 
she recalled, she used to gather great armfuls of holly back at Monteloup 
around Christmas time! So long ago! Could just one little sprig bridge 
the chasm that lay between Angelique de Sance and Angelique du 

‘Life never robs us of ourselves/ she murmured to herself. A shiver 
of emotion ran through her, as if she had heard tidings of great joy. 

Immature, perhaps, but then she had never put away those childish 
thrills no woman can do without. To relish them once more was a 
luxury she could now easily afford. 

Slipping down from her mare and tossing Ceres’ reins over a hazel 
branch she ran to the holly bush. From among the jewelled gewgaws 
that hung from her belt she selected a little pearl-handled penknife 
that she used for paring fruit. It would be just the thing. 

She did not notice that the sound of the horns and the shouting of 
the hunters had drifted farther and farther away, nor observed how 
skittish Ceres had become, until with a whinny of fright the mare 
yanked the reins from the hazel bush and galloped off in a frenzy. 

‘Ceres I ’ Angelique called. ‘Ceres!’ 

Then she perceived what had caused the mare to dash away. Across 
the clearing, half -hidden in the thickets, prowled a sinister form. 

‘The wolf!’ 

The instant she had stepped out of the shelter of the bushes on to the 
untrodden snow she realised that there crouched the terror of the 
countryside, his back arched and his shaggy pelt bristling. Without 
making the slightest movement he fixed on Angelique eyes that glowed 
with the evil fire of a demon’s. Huge was he indeed, and as grey and 
russet as the forest tones themselves. 

Angelique let out a piercing scream. 

The beast leaped up, backed off a bit, then slowly crept towards her, 
his slavering jaws baring fearful fangs. At any moment he would spring 
upon her. 

Angelique glanced over her shoulder at the high wall of rock that 
towered above her. ‘I must get up it. Just as high as I can.’ 

Gathering all her courage, she managed to scale its lowest ridge. Then 


she could go no farther. Her nails slipped on the sheer surface. She 
could find no handhold. 

The wolf had sprung, but had reached only the hem of her dress. 
Crouched again, he lay in wait for her to fall, never taking his baleful, 
bloodshot eyes from her. 

She screamed again at the top of her lungs. Her heart was pounding 
so violently that she could hear nothing but its deafening drumbeat. 
With frantic haste she tried to piece together the words of a prayer: 
'Lord ! Lord God, don't let me die like this . . . Do something, oh God, 
do something . . . !’ 

Suddenly a horse dashed up and skidded to a stop in a cloud of fly- 
ing snow. Its rider jumped to the ground. As if she were dreaming 
Angelique saw the great wolf -hunter, her husband Philippe du Plessis- 
Belliere. He seemed to take in the extraordinary situation in one second. 
A silver-trimmed white buckskin jacket girdled his body, and the fur at 
its neck and cuffs was the colour of his own blond hair. Steadily his 
silver-spurred white leather boots moved forward. His hands were bare, 
for he had stripped off his gauntlets before dismounting. In his grip was 
the silver haft of a long slim hunting knife. 

The wolf turned upon this new adversary. Slowly, relentlessly, Philippe 
moved towards it. When he was two yards away the beast sprang, its 
scarlet gullet yawning beyond its knife-sharp fangs. 

With a lightning movement Philippe thrust forward his left arm, 
wrapping it like a tentacle around the wolfs throat. With his knife he 
slit its belly from haunch to breast. The beast writhed with blood- 
curdling guttural snarls as its lifeblood spurted like a geyser. At length 
its death-struggles grew weaker. Philippe heaved the panting carcase 
aside, trailing its guts over the snow as it fell. 

From every quarter now the whips and the horsemen were dashing 
into the clearing. The lackeys kept the howling pack from the carcase. 

‘Good workl’ said the King to Philippe. 

In the confusion the plight of Angelique had escaped notice. She took 
advantage of this distraction to slide down from the cliff, clean her 
skinned hands and pick up her hat. One of the whippers-in led her horse 
back to her. He was an old man who had grown grey in his service as 
King's huntsman and had a blunt manner of speaking. Having followed 
close upon Philippe's heels, he had arrived in time to see the end of the 

‘You had a good fright, didn’t you, Madame?’ he said. ‘We knew the 
wolf was over here somewhere, and when we saw your horse come back 
with empty stirrups and heard you scream ... I On my honour, 


Madame, it was the first time I ever saw our Master of the Hunt turn 
pale - deathly white/ 

It was not until the feast that followed the hunt that Angelique met 
Philippe. It had been impossible for her to join him ever since the 
moment when in his bloody hunting jacket he had thrown her a furious 
look before remounting his horse. Doubtless he had wanted to give her 
a couple of good slaps. None the less she admitted that a wife who has 
had her life saved by her husband owes him a thank-you at least. 

‘Philippe/ she said as soon as she could get his attention between 
two courses at the banquet, ‘I am much obliged to you. If it hadn’t been 
for you, it would have been all up with me/ 

He waited to set his empty wineglass on a tray that a footman was 
passing before he grasped her wrist so tightly she thought he would 
snap it. 

‘If you don’t know how to follow a hunt any better than that/ he 
whispered crossly, ‘you had better stay home with your needlework. You 
are always putting me into embarrassing situations. You’re nothing but 
a crude peasant, an uneducated shopkeeper. Someday I’ll find a way of 
having you expelled from the Court, and getting quit of you/ 

‘Then why didn’t you let the wolf tend to business, as he was so 
eager to do?’ 

‘I had to kill the wolf. What happened to you was no concern of mine. 
Don’t laugh, you are exasperating. You are just like all women, thinking 
you are irresistible and that everyone is willing to die for you gladly. 
I’m not that kind of man. Some day you’ll learn, if you haven’t done so 
already, that I am a wolf, too/ 

‘I don’t doubt it, Philippe/ 

‘I can prove it to you/ he said with a frigid smile that foretold bad 
things to come. Then he took her hand with a tenderness she sus- 
pected and raised it to his lips. ‘The barrier you raised between us on 
our wedding day, Madame - hatred, rancour, revenge -can never be 
removed. Take that as a fact/ 

Her delicate hand was against his mouth. Suddenly he bit it savagely. 

Angelique had to summon all her self-control to keep from screaming 
with pain. In pulling away from him she kicked Madame, who was 
rising from the table. She cried out. 

Angelique turned from scarlet to white as she stammered: Tray for- 
give me. Your Highness/ 

How clumsy you are, my dear!’ 


To which Philippe added snidely: ‘You must be a little more careful 
how you move, Madame. The wine has been too much for you.’ 

His eyes were gleaming wickedly. He bowed very low before the 
princess, then left the women to join the King, who was moving towards 
the salons. 

Angelique tied her lace handkerchief over the marks his teeth had 
left on her hand. The pain had made her faint. Dizzily she groped her 
way through the throng and reached a vestibule where the air was 
cooler. There she sank on to the first sofa she came to in a bay window. 
Cautiously she removed the bandage and rolled it into a ball. Her hand 
was turning blue, and pinheads of dark blood were oozing from the 
wound. How fiendish he had been to bite her like that, and how scan- 
dalous his insinuation! ‘Be careful how you move, the wine has been 
too much for you/ Now the gossip would start that Madame du Plessis 
had been so drunk she had jostled Madame. She would be put down as 
too inexperienced to be in society. 

The Marquis de Lauzun passed by and recognised her. ‘Now I am 
really going to scold you/ he said. ‘Alone again! Always alone! And 
at Court, and as beauteous as the day, too! Taking sanctuary in this 
corner that is so hidden away they call it Venus’s laboratory. Alone this 
way, you defy the most basic rules of pleasant company, not to mention 
the laws of nature/ 

He sat down beside her, as if he were a father scolding his little 
daughter. ‘What is troubling you, my darling? What melancholy demon 
has so possessed you that you are determined to spurn all our compli- 
ments and isolate yourself from the devotion we would so gallantly offer 
you? Have you forgotten that Heaven has given you incomparable 
charm? Do you want to repudiate that gift of God? Ah, what’s this I 
see? Angelique, my darling, don’t take it so seriously/ Putting his finger 
under her chin, he turned her face up to him. ‘You’re weeping. Is it 
because of a man?’ 

Spasmodic sobs so choked her she could only nod her head. 

‘Why, why/ said Lauzun, ‘that’s a crime. You should be making 
others weep. My lamb, there isn’t a man here worth the salt in your 
tears. Even I, though I still hope . . / 

Angelique tried hard to smile. Presently she found her voice again. 
‘Oh, it really isn’t so bad. I’m just nervous. I don’t feel well/ 


She showed him her hand. 

‘What monster did. that?’ Peguilin exclaimed in outrage. ‘Tell me his 
name, Madame, and I shall demand satisfaction/ 


‘Don't bother, Peguilin. He has, I'm sorry to say, complete authority 
over me.' 

‘Do you mean your husband, the handsome Marquis?’ 

Angelique only burst into tears again. 

‘Ah, what more can you expect from a husband/ said Peguilin in 
disgust. ‘That's just the thing about him that made you choose him . But 
why are you so determined to keep on seeing him?' 

Angelique sobbed all the harder. 

‘Come, come, now/ Peguilin said tenderly, ‘don't go on like this. For 
a man, and just for a husband? You're out of style, my jewel, or out of 
your head. For a long time now you've been carrying on in this un- 
natural way, and I want to take this chance to talk to you about it. But 
first dry your eyes.' 

He took out a spotless square of lawn and gently wiped her cheeks 
and eyes. She looked up at the cheerful wisdom of his expression which 
the entire Court including the King himself had learned to w r atch for 
signs of coming mischief. His worldly life, his excesses, had already 
scarred the comers of his mouth with lines of irony, yet his face as a 
whole radiated his love of life and his inner happiness. He was from the 
south, a Gascon, sunny as the livelong day and as lively as a trout in a 
mountain stream. 

She sighed once more, then looked at him sweetly. He smiled. 

‘Feeling better?' 

‘A litde.' 

‘We'll make everything right/ he said. 

A moment went by in which he studied her in silence. They were 
screened from the eternal passing-by of the courtiers and servants in the 
corridor. The alcove was a little off the beaten track, and its space was 
entirely filled by the sofa whose high arm-rests hid them from the gaze 
of the curious. The crimson rays of the setting sun streamed on them 
through the window as the early winter twilight deepened. Beyond, the 
marble ums on the terrace and the frozen pools of the fountains glim- 
mered faintly in the evening mist. 

‘So this is known as Venus’s laboratory?’ said Angelique, her voice 
still unsteady from her emotion. 


‘Yes, here we are sheltered, as much as anyone can be at Court, from 
inquisitive eyes. It's common knowledge that too impatient lovers often 
come here to offer their sacrifice to the goddess. Angelique, don't you 
think you are wrong to ignore her?' 

‘Ignore the goddess of love? Peguilin, I am more inclined to blame her 
for neglecting me/ 


‘I’m not so sure,’ he said di*eamily. 

‘What do you mean?’ 

He shook his head, then leaned his chin on his finger as if thinking 
deeply. ‘Damn Philippe ! ’ he sighed. ‘Who will ever know what’s hidden 
beneath that rascal’s hide? Haven’t you ever tried to slip some 
medicinal powder into his wineglass some evening to keep him away 
from you? They say La Vienne, who runs the public baths on the Rue 
du Faubourg Saint-Honore, has potions to restore vigour to lovers ex- 
hausted by too frequent sacrifices, as well as for old lechers and those 
whose temperament is too cold for worship at Venus’ altar. I have heard 
marvellous things about one of those substances called pollevile .’ 

1 don’t doubt it, but I don’t care for such methods. You see, I should 
need a chance to get near enough to Philippe to touch his - wineglass. 
That does not often happen.’ 

Peguilin’s eyes popped. ‘You can’t mean that your husband is 
so utterly indifferent to your charms that he never comes to visit 

‘Yes,’ Angelique sighed, ‘it’s true.’ 

‘But . . . what is your so-called husband thinking of?’ 

‘I don’t know.’ 

‘What! Well, then . . . what about your -er- lovers?’ 

Angelique did not answer. 

‘Do you mean to tell me you have none?’ 

‘I do indeed, Peguilin. It is the truth.’ 

‘Impos - si - ble ! ’ Peguilin looked as if he had just got news of a 
mighty catastrophe. ‘Angelique, you ought to be spanked.’ 

‘Why?’ she protested. ‘It is not my fault.’ 

‘It is entirely your fault. With your complexion, your eyes, your figure, 
you have only yourself to blame for this mess. You are an unnatural 
creature, exasperating and formidable.’ He put his finger to his fore- 
head. ‘What goes on in that naughty little head? Nothing but schemes 
and politics and business deals daring enough to stagger Colbert and 
even Tellier? A conservative business man would box your ears, and a 
young one would be so dazzled he would not know how to keep you 
from getting your hands on his last penny. And on top of all that, the 
face of an angel, eyes that drown a man in their radiant depths, lips 
that one only has to look at to want to devour with kisses ! Your cruelty 
is an exquisite torture. You are like a goddess revealed in a vision. And 
for whom? Tell me!’ 

Angelique was baffled by his vehemence. ‘I have enough to do,’ she 


‘And what the devil more can a woman have to do than make love? 
Really, you are just an egoist imprisoned in a tower of your own making 
to protect yourself/ 

His perspicacity astonished her. ‘That's only partly true, Lauzun. 
How could anyone know what I am really like? You have never been in 

Suddenly she felt very tired. She leaned her head back and closed 
her eyes. A few moments ago she had been boiling hot, now the blood in 
her veins ran cold. It was like the onslaught of old age. She wanted to 
cry out to Peguilin for help, yet her better judgment told her he would 
rescue her only to lead her into greater dangers. She decided to move to 
safer ground. 

Straightening up, she asked playfully: ‘By the way, Peguilin, you 
haven't told me whether you finally got your appointment as Grand 

‘No/ Peguilin said tonelessly. 

‘Why not?’ 

‘You have tried to put me off before, but this time I’m not going to 
get caught. You aren’t through with me yet. Right now, my appoint- 
ment as Grand Master doesn’t interest me in the least - only how you 
can rule your life from your calculating head, and not from here/ He 
laid his hand on her breast. 

‘Peguilin!’ she protested, standing up. 

He caught her to him, and tipping her against his right arm, slipped 
his left hand under her knees so that she lost her balance and fell back 
upon the sofa with him leaning upon her bosom. 

‘Be still,’ he ordered her, ‘and relax. Let the doctor diagnose your 
trouble. It’s serious, but not hopeless. Come now, tell me the names of 
all those noble lords who swarm about you and lie tossing the night 
through at the very thought of you/ 

‘My word, do you think there are that many?’ 

‘I forbid you to act so surprised!’ 

‘But Peguilin, I swear I don’t know what you’re referring to/ 

T)o you mean you did not even notice the Marquis de la Vallifere 
fluttering like a mad butterfly when you appeared? Or Vivonne, 
Athenais’s brother, faltering like a schoolboy? Or Brienne’s compli- 
ments? Or Saint-Aignan or Roquelaure, or even the bold Louvois turn- 
ing pale when talking to you?’ 

She giggled with pleasure. 

‘I forbid you to laugh,’ interrupted Peguilin. ‘If you haven’t noticed 
all that, you are farther gone than I thought. Haven’t you felt the heat 


of the flames you have kindled. By Beelzebub, I think you must have the 
hide of a salamander.’ He tickled her neck with his finger. 

‘You did not mention yourself as one of those on fire, Monsieur de 

‘Not 1/ he said quickly. ‘I would never dare. I am too scared.’ 

‘Of me?’ 

His eyelids drooped. ‘Yes, of you . . . and of everything about you. 
Your past, your future, your mystery.’ 

Angelique stared at him for a moment, then with a tremor buried her 
face against his blue coat. ‘Peguilin!’ 

He was such an old friend, Peguilin the gay, bound up with all the 
drama of her former life. In every one of her crises he had popped up 
like a puppet in a Punch and Judy show - appearing, disappearing, re- 
appearing. And now here he was again, just as always. 

‘No, no, no,’ he replied. ‘I don’t like such risks. The pangs of heart- 
ache terrify me. Don’t expect me to make love to you.’ 

‘What are you doing now?’ 

‘Comforting you. It’s not the same thing at all.’ His finger traced 
little curlicues down the length of her silken throat, then followed the 
line of her necklace of rosy pearls gleaming lustrously against her milk- 
white skin. ‘You’ve been so badly treated, and tonight you have such 
grief to bear. My god, what do they want to do, abuse you till you’re 
tough as a sword-blade? Anyone would think no man’s hand had ever 
touched you. Oh, how I would like to give you a little lesson . . 

He leaned towards her. She tried again to escape, but he held her too 
tighdy. His eyes glittered like a man’s who has lost all hope of salva- 

‘We have teased you enough, my pet. The hour for revenge has struck. 
Besides I am dying to comfort you, and I know you need consolation 
badly.’ He began to kiss her eyelids lighdy, then her temples. Then his 
hot lips pressed against the corner of her mouth. 

A tremor ran through her as the sudden lash of an animal passion 
struck her. A perverse curiosity tempted her to test the talents of this 
Don Juan of the Court. 

Peguilin was right. Philippe meant nothing to her. The empty charade 
of the Court was all that mattered to her now. She knew she could never 
live again on the edge of things, alone, for all her beautiful gowns and 
costly jewels. She would gradually become like the rest, exist as they 
did, caught in the same whirlpool of intrigues and adultery. It was a 
heady draught, poisoned perhaps, but sweet to the taste. She would have 
to drink deep of it or die. 


A sigh welled up from within her. The curing touch of his caresses 
was overcoming her inhibitions. When Lauzun’s mouth touched hers 
she little by litde opened her lips until she had wholly yielded to their 

A flash of light from the torches that two troops of servants were 
bringing to fix in brackets along the walls of the corridor separated 
them for a moment. Angelique had forgotten that darkness had en- 
closed them. A servant set a six-branched candelabra on a table near 
their alcove. 

"Hey, boy/ whispered Peguilin, leaning over the arm of the sofa, ‘take 
your lantern farther off/ 

T cannot, sir. My master would be furious with me/ 

Then blow out three of your candles/ said Lauzun, tossing him a 
gold piece. 

He took Angelique into his arms again. ‘How lovely you arel How- 
sweet to all the senses I ' 

Anticipation had driven them crazy. Angelique groaned and bit the 
silken epaulette of his blue coat. Peguilin laughed softly. 

‘Easy, my little vixen. You'll get what you want/ 

She yielded to him. The golden veil of voluptuous oblivion descended 
gently over them. She was merely an ardent body, greedy with desire, 
unconscious of where she was or even of the partner whose practised 
touch made her whole being quiver. 

‘My child, you have grievously sinned, but in consideration of the 
repentance you have made and the zeal with which you have tried to 
mend your ways, I believe it is my duty to grant you the blessing of little 
god Eros, and his absolution. For penance you shall recite . . / 

‘You are terrible/ she giggled, still languishing in his arms. 

Peguilin separated a lock of her blond hair and pressed it to his lips. 
Privately he was amazed at his own delight in her. He felt none of the 
melancholy that follows satiation. Why? he wondered. What kind of 
woman was this? 

‘Angelique, angel, I fear I have forgotten all my good resolutions. 
I am burning to know more. Will you come to me tonight after the King 
retires? I beg you to/ 

‘What about Madame de Roquelaure?’ 

‘To hell with her!’ 

Angelique raised herself from his shoulder on which she had been 
leaning, and drew the lace of her bodice over her bosom - a gesture 
designed to keep him in suspense. 

A few steps away from them, silhouetted in black against the glow 


of the lighted corridor, was the motionless figure of a man. There was 
no need for them to see his features to identify him. It was Philippe. 

Peguilin de Lauzun was fully experienced in situations like this. 
Quickly he adjusted his garments, rose and bowed deeply. ‘Sir, your 
seconds? I am at your service/ 

‘And my wife is at everyone’s service/ Philippe replied slowly. ‘Please, 
my dear Marquis, don’t disturb anyone/ He bowed as deeply as Peguilin 
had, and strode away. 

The Marquis de Lauzun seemed changed into a pillar of salt. ‘The 
devil!’ he swore. ‘I’ve never met a husband like that before/ Drawing 
his sword, he took the three steps of the platform in one bound and 
dashed after the Master of the Hunt. 

Still running, he burst into the Salon of Diana at the very moment at 
which the King, followed by the ladies of his family, was coming from 
his audience chamber. 

‘Sir/ shouted Peguilin in ringing tones, ‘your contempt is insulting. 
I demand satisfaction. Your sword must answer for you/ 

Philippe lowered his icy gaze on his gesticulating rival. ‘My sword is 
at the service of the King, sir. I never fight over a whore/ 

In his rage Lauzun had relapsed into his native dialect. ‘I have 
cuckolded you, sir/ he shouted, ‘and I demand satisfaction from you !’ 


In the ashy grey dawn Angelique sat on the edge of her bed. Her head 
throbbed and her mouth tasted sour. She ran her fingers through her 
tangled hair. Her scalp hurt her. She started to get a looking-glass from 
her dressing-table but winced with pain. Her hand was badly swollen. 
She looked dully at the wound and suddenly remembered Philippe. 

She leaped from her bed and stumbled about in her high-heeled 
slippers. She must get the latest news about Philippe and Lauzun at 
once. Had the King talked them out of a duel? If they had fought, what 
fate awaited the survivor? Arrest, prison, disgrace? 

No matter how she looked at it, she was trapped in a dreadful situa- 
tion. A scandal, a frightful scandal. She was burning with shame at the 
very thought of what had transpired at Fontainebleau. 

Back to her mind came the vision of Lauzun and Philippe drawing 
their swords and calling en garde right before the King’s eyes. De 
Gesvres, de Crequi and de Montausier had separated them, and 
Montausier had pinioned the arms of the fuming Gascon who was 


screaming, ‘I have cuckolded you, sir 1" while all the eyes of the Court 
turned towards her as she stood crimson with embarrassment in her 
magnificent apricot-coloured gown. 

She could not now recall what miracle had prompted her to approach 
the King as if to speak to him and the Queen, make her deepest curtsy 
and then withdraw, holding herself erect, between two banks of jeer- 
ing and scandalised faces, whispers, stifled laughter and finally a silence 
so complete and terrifying that she was tempted to gather up her skirts 
and flee on the run. But she had kept her dignity to the very end, and 
had made her exit without haste. Then, more dead than alive, she had 
sunk upon a bench on an empty, poorly lit stair-landing. 

There Madame de Choisy joined her a few moments later. Swallowing 
hard like a shocked pigeon, this noble lady had informed the Marquise 
du Plessis-Belliere that His Majesty was in the process of lecturing 
Monsieur du Lauzun in private, and that the Prince had taken charge 
of the deceived husband, and that everyone hoped this unseemly quarrel 
would end there. Of course, Madame du Plessis would understand that 
her presence at Court was no longer desired. Madame de Choisy had 
been instructed by the King to advise her of the necessity of leaving 
Fontainebleau at once. 

Angelique received the verdict with a kind of relief. She had rushed 
into her coach and had driven all night long in spite of the grumbling 
of her coachman and lackeys, who were afraid to drive through the 
forest lest they be attacked by bandits. 

It's just my luck/ she said to herself as she gazed bitterly at the dark 
circles under her eyes. 'Every day and every night innumerable women 
at Court deceive their husbands with all the ease in the world, and the 
one time I try it, lightning strikes. No luck whatever !’ 

On the verge of tears, she yanked the bell-cord. Javotte and Therese 
appeared, yawning and rubbing their eyes. She ordered them to help 
her dress, then sent for Flipot and told him to run to the hotel of the 
Marquis du Plessis, in the Rue Faubourg Saint- Antoine, and hurry back 
with all the news he could glean. 

She was finishing dressing when the noise of a coach turning slowly 
into the courtyard of her hdtel froze her. Her heart was pounding. 
Why should anyone come to see her at six in the morning? Who could 
it be? She rushed into the hall, went down a few stairs cautiously, and 
leaned over the banister. 

It was Philippe, followed by La Violette holding two swords and lead- 
ing the Marquis's confessor. Philippe raised his head. 

T have just killed Monsieur de Lauzun/ he said. 


Angelique gripped the banister to keep from falling. Her heart 
started pounding again. Philippe was alive! 

She ran down the stairs. As she drew near her husband she could see 
his shirt-front and waistcoat spotted with blood. For once he could 
not swish his cloak, for he was cradling his right arm in his other 

‘You are wounded/ she said faintly. ‘Is it serious? Oh, Philippe, come, 
let me bandage you, please!’ 

Almost supporting him, she led him to her own room. He must have 
been quite exhausted, for he made no comment, merely dropped heavily 
into an armchair and closed his eyes. His face was as white as her 

Angelique’s hands shook as she picked up her sewing kit, extracted her 
scissors and began to cut away the blood-stiffened cloth. Meanwhile she 
was yelling at the servants to fetch hot water, lint, powders, salves and 
the Queen of Hungary’s elixir. 

‘Drink this/ she said as soon as Philippe revived a little. 

The wound did not seem deep. It was a long rip from the right 
shoulder to the left breast, but it had not penetrated much beyond the 
surface of the skin. Angelique washed it and applied a mustard plaster, 
powdered lobster shell, and a poultice. 

Philippe endured these administrations without moving a muscle, 
even when the mustard plaster was applied. He seemed to be deep in 

‘I wonder how this matter of etiquette will be decided/ he said at 

‘What etiquette?’ 

‘My arrest. In principle, the Captain of the King’s Bodyguards is 
supposed to arrest duellists. But the Captain is none other than the 
Marquis de Lauzun. He cannot arrest himself, can he?’ 

‘Hardly, since he is dead/ said Angelique with a nervous laugh. 

‘He hasn’t a scratch.’ 

‘But didn’t you just tell me . . . ?’ 

‘I wanted to see whether you would faint.’ 

‘I was not going to swoon over Peguilin de Lauzun. I was shocked to 
be sure, but it is you, Philippe, who were wounded.’ 

‘I had to do my best to stop that foolishness. I was not going to 
destroy a twenty-year friendship with Peguilin over such a trifle.’ 

She turned white and her eyes grew dim as she felt faintness over- 
coming her. 

‘That’s what the King called you, isn’t it? A toy.’ 


Her eyes filled with tears again. She put her hand on his forehead. 
How weak he seemed for one so hard. 

‘Oh, Philippe/ she whispered, ‘what a mess ! And to think you had 
just saved my life. Why couldn’t things have turned out differently? 
I would so much have liked to love you ... to be able to love you/ 

The Marquis raised his hand in an imperious gesture for her to be 
silent. T think they are here/ he said. 

The marble staircase resounded with the clank of spurs and sabres. 
Then the door slowly opened and the Comte de Cavois entered, his face 

‘Cavois/ said Philippe, ‘have you come to arrest me?’ 

The Comte nodded feebly. 

‘It is a good choice. You are Colonel of the Musketeers, and next to 
the Captain of the King’s Bodyguard the duty should be yours. What 
has happened to Peguilin?’ 

‘He is already in the Bastille/ 

Philippe stood up painfully. ‘I am at your service. Madame, be so good 
as to put my doublet over my shoulders.’ 

The mere mention of the word Bastille made Angelique’s senses reel. 
Everything was starting all over again. Once more a husband was being 
tom from her to be shut away in the Bastille. Her lips white, she clasped 
her hands in prayer. 

‘Monsieur de Cavois, not the Bastille, I beg you!’ 

‘I am sorry, Madame, but those are the King’s orders. Are you unaware 
that Monsieur du Plessis has greatly offended him in fighting this duel 
in spite of the severe edicts against it? However, don’t worry. He will 
be well treated and well cared for, and his valet may accompany him/ 

He offered Philippe his arm to lean upon. 

Angelique moaned like a wounded animal. ‘Not to the Bastille ! Lock 
him up wherever you want, but not in the Bastille ! ’ 

The two nobles were at the door. They turned to her with a look of 
total bewilderment. 

‘And where would you like to have me locked up?’ Philippe asked in 
annoyance. ‘In the Chatelet, perhaps with the rabble?’ 

Yes, everything was starting all over again. The endless waiting, the 
lack of information, the paralysis of action, the inevitable tragic ending. 
Once more she saw herself going over the same ground, stumbling, and 
already she was choking with anguish as if she were having one of 
those nightmares in which one tries in vain to escape but it rooted to the 
ground. For a while she thought she was going to lose her mind. 



Her servants, distressed to see their mistress, whom they had known in 
a more vigorous state, so overwhelmed, finally thought of something that 
might calm her. 

‘You should go to see Mademoiselle de Lenclos, Madame. Made- 
moiselle de Lenclos/ They almost forced her into her sedan chair. 

It was good advice. Ninon was the only one, with all her worldly 
wisdom, her great human understanding, her generous heart, who could 
listen to Angelique’s tale of woe without taking her for a fool or being 
scandalised. She rocked her in her arms, called her ‘dear heart’, and 
when Angelique’s panic subsided a litde, undertook to show her 
how petty the whole incident was. There were many precedents. Every 
day husbands fought duels to avenge their honour. 

‘But the Bastille V The name was blazoned in letters of fire before 
Angelique’s eyes. 

‘But people do get out of it, my dear.’ 

‘Only to go to the stake.’ 

Ninon stroked her forehead. ‘I don’t know what you are referring to. 
There must have been some terrible event in your past to make you 
lose courage like this. As soon as you’re yourself again, you’ll see just as 
I do that the rumours about the Bastille which have made such an im- 
pression upon you are nothing to be afraid of. It’s just the King’s dark 
closet. Is there any of our fine lords who hasn’t spent a few days there 
to pay for some rudeness or disobedience that their high spirits has 
embroiled them in? This is the third time for Lauzun himself. Possibly 
the fourth. His example alone proves that one can get out of the Bastille 
and achieve an even greater position of honour than before. Let the 
King birch his naughty schoolboys. He will be the first to long for 
the return of that naughty rogue Lauzun or for his Master of the 

Her words of wisdom comforted Angelique and calmed her. Now she 
could see that her panic had been groundless and foolish. 

Ninon advised her to do nothing until the gossip had died down. 
‘One scandal covers up another, and the Court has plenty of them. 
Patience! I bet that within a week another will have replaced yours 
on the lips of the scandalmongers.’ 

On her advice Angelique resolved to make a retreat in the Convent 
of the Carmelites, where her young sister Marie-Agnes was a novice. 
This would be the best solution for getting away from the eyes of the 
world, and still remaining in it. 

In her nun’s coif Marie-Agnes de Sance, green-eyed and endowed 
with a mysterious smile, was like an archaic angel on the portal of a 


cathedral. Angelique was surprised to find her still determined to take 
the veil. She was barely twenty-one years old. A life of self-denial and 
prayer seemed hardly suited to her younger sister’s temperament. At 
twelve she had a reputation for being devilish, and her brief experience 
as Maid of Honour to the Queen had been one long sequence of rash 
and suddenly terminated affairs. Angelique suspected that Marie-Agnes 
had learned more from the book of love than she herself had. And after 
the young nun had heard her confession, Angelique was surprised to 
hear her sigh indulgently: ‘How young you are still 1 Why get into such 
a fuss over a commonplace thing?’ 

‘Commonplace, Marie-Agnes! I have just told you I deceived my 
husband. That’s a sin, isn’t it?’ 

‘Nothing is more commonplace than sin. Only virtue is unusual. So 
unusual these days that it is almost unique.’ 

‘How can that be? I don’t understand. I did not want . . .’ 

‘Listen,’ said Marie-Agnes in the cutting voice that was a family 
trait: ‘either you wanted something like this, or you did not. And if you 
did not want it, then why did you go to live at Court?’ 

Perhaps that was the explanation of why she had divorced herself so 
completely from the world. 

Angelique thought of doing penance there in the blanketing silence 
of that holy house, where the din of the world grew faint. A visit from 
Madame de Montespan, however, shattered her heavenly aspirations 
and brought her back to earth and all its complex problems. 

‘I don’t know if my procedure is wise,’ the beautiful Athenals said to 
her, ‘but when all is said and done, it’s to my advantage to put you on 
guard. But do what you want, and, don’t consider me. Solignac has made 
himself accountable for this duel scandal. By which I mean that your 
husband’s affairs are going badly.’ 

‘What has the Marquis de Solignac got to do with it?’ 

‘The same old story - protecting God and His holy cause. I warned 
you that he was a waspish, contradictory creature. He’s got it into his 
head that duels are aspects of heresy and atheism. He has seized on 
this one of Lauzun and your husband and is urging the King to be 
severe and to “Make an example”. It may be necessary to prepare an 

Seeing Angelique turn dead white, the astonished Marquise gave her 
a playful tap with her fan. ‘I was joking. But be careful ! That fanatic 
is quite capable of getting them a long imprisonment and a thumping 
disgrace, and don’t I know it ! The King will listen to him because he 
remembers that Lauzun has irritated him too often. And he does not 


like it that these two nobles have gone beyond his limits of propriety. 
He doesn’t care anything about the duel itself, but it is a question of 
law, and so the general opinion is that die pyre may be kindled. If I 
were you, I would try to intervene while there is still time and before 
the King has made up his mind/ 

Angelique threw down her prayerbook and left the pious convent at 

When she went back to see Ninon de Lenclos, she was urged once 
again not to take the matter of a deceived husband so seriously. ‘Who/ 
said Ninon, ‘would be so foolish as to make an issue about it? In a 
general epidemic doctors do not take pains with individual cases/ 

Louis XIV, when he heard this, smiled. That was taken as a good sign. 

Nevertheless the great hetaera wrinkled her brows when Angelique 
told her of Solignac’s meddling. She recalled the time that Richelieu 
had hacked off the heads of foolish nobles to ‘make an example’, and 
forced the young lords to abandon their detestable habit of fighting 
duels and decimating their ranks. 

‘If Monsieur de Solignac has the notion that your husband’s sword has 
interfered with God’s will, we can be sure he will be just as importunate 
with the King as anyone wanting a favour/ 

‘Do you think the King will let himself be influenced by him?’ 

‘It is not a question of weakness on his part. Even if the King thinks 
Solignac a nuisance, his arguments carry a certain weight. He has both 
Church and civil law on his side. If the King is forced into a position of 
invoking one or the other, he will have to do so. Only discretion can 
make the thing come out right now, and discretion is extremely in- 

Angelique lowered her head in reflection. Now that she had a battle 
on her hands, she had no time to waste. 

‘What if I went to see Solignac?’ 

‘Try it/ 

Even though it was pouring with rain, Angelique stopped for a mo- 
ment or two outside the iron-barred gates of Saint-Germain. She had just 
been informed that the Court had moved to Versailles. She almost 
abandoned her mission. Then her determination returned. 

Climbing back into her coach she called to the coachman: ‘On to 
Versailles!’ She could hear him grumbling as the heavy vehicle turned 

Outside the streaming windows of the coach the bare trees of the 
forest loomed out of the fog. It was being a wretched winter, with 


nothing but rain and cold and the eternal mud. Everyone yearned for 
Christmas to bring a new, clean snowfall. 

Angelique scarcely noticed how cold her feet were. From time to time 
she set her mouth grimly, and her eyes flamed with what Mademoiselle 
de Parajonc called her ‘battle expression’. She was running over in her 
mind her interview with the Marquis de Solignac, which he had granted 
at her insistence - not at his home, or at hers, but in an icy little 
parlour at the Convent of the Celestines. He had wanted it a secret 

Once away from the Court, where his height and his towering wig 
gave him a certain noble bearing, the Queen’s High Chamberlain 
seemed to her a rather pitiful figure, suspicious of everything. He never 
missed a chance to imply that her attitude made this rendezvous with 
her, which should have been ultra-dignified, somewhat lacking in 

‘Do you think, Madame, that you are still one of the flames of the 
Court, and that I am one of those fops who flutter around you like 
moths? I have no idea why you wished this meeting, but since I am 
quite aware of the regrettable situation in which your carelessness has 
placed you, I must ask that out of shame you put aside this pretence at 
melancholy with which you attempt to charm me as if to make me 
think you crushed with woe/ 

She grew more and more astonished at him. With his eyes half shut 
so that they seemed to peer into her soul, he asked her whether she 
fasted on Fridays, if she gave to charity, if she had seen Tartuffe , and 
if so, how many times. 

Tartuffe was Moliere’s comedy that had offended many sanctimonious 
persons. Angelique had not been at Court when it was given there, and 
so had not seen it. 

Angelique had underestimated the strength of the Brotherhood of 
the Holy Sacrament. Her temper rose, and the argument grew bitter. 

‘Woe to him - or her - who causes scandal !’ concluded the unyielding 

Angelique had been routed. She was less brave now than angry. She 
made up her mind to go to the King. 

She passed the night at an inn near Versailles. As soon as the salon 
for the petitioners was opened she appeared, and after making obeisance 
to the golden ship on the mantelpiece, which symbolised the person 
of the King, she waited while the room filled up with the usual army 
of old soldiers seeking pensions, impoverished widows, ruined noblemen, 
waifs and strays. Weary of petitioning the Goddess of Chance in vain, 


they now were directing their prayers to the monarch omnipotent* 
Near her stood Madame Scarron in her old worn cloak, the archetype of 
them all, for who was more experienced a seeker than she? 

Angelique did not wish to be recognised by her, and pulled the 
hood of her cloak over her face. 

When the King passed her, she fell to her knees and bowed her 
head low, merely stretching forth her petition in which she humbly 
begged His Majesty to grant an interview to Madame du Plessis-Belliere. 
Her hopes soared as she noticed that the King did glance at her and 
kept the petition in his hand instead of turning it over, as he did, with 
the others, to Monsieur de Gesvres. 

When the throng dispersed, however, it was de Gesvres who came 
over to her and asked her softly to follow him. Presently she found the 
door of the King’s audience chamber opening before her. 

Angelique had not expected her prayers to be answered so quickly. 
Her heart was pounding as she advanced a few steps and again fell to 
her knees while the door was closed behind her. 

‘Rise, Madame,’ she heard the King’s indulgent voice, ‘and draw 

She waited until she reached the table before she lifted her hood. 

The room was gloomy. Torrents of rain were splashing on the gravel 
of the terrace outside. Still she could discern the trace of a smile on 
Louis XIV’s lips. 

‘It grieves me,’ he said winningly, ‘that one of my ladies should feel 
obliged to be so secretive about seeing me. You could have come 
and been announced quite openly. After all, you are the wife of a 

‘Sire, my embarrassment is so . . .’ 

‘We shall come to that. I recognise your embarrassment. You are 
forgiven. It might have been wiser for you not to have left Fontaine- 
bleau so precipitately the other evening. Your flight was not in keeping 
with the great dignity you displayed during that painful incident.’ 

Angelique was just about to remind the sovereign that it was on his 
orders, relayed to her by Madame de Choisy, that she had departed. 

But the King forestalled her. ‘We will pass over that. What is the 
purpose of your visit?’ 

‘Sire, the Bastille . . .’ The very sound of the dreadful word she had 
let escape silenced her. What a bad beginning! She wrung her hands 
in anxiety. 

‘Well,’ said the King gently, ‘for whom have you come to intercede - 
Monsieur de Lauzun or Monsieur du Plessis?’ 


'Sire/ Angelique’s spirit revived, 'the fate of my husband is my only 

'Would that it had always been so, Madame. From what I have been 
given to understand, I cannot help thinking that for one tiny instant 
the fate of your husband and his honour were perhaps not foremost in 
in your thoughts/ 

'That is true, Sire/ 

'You are sorry?’ 

'To the very depths of my soul/ 

His penetrating eyes revealed to her the monarch’s intense curiosity 
about the private lives of his subjects. She had heard that he was very 
inquisitive, but that he was also a paragon of discretion. The King 
knew , he never spoke - or rather, he silenced. In this respect, more than 
any other, he manifested his profound interest in human beings and his 
desire to know their darkest secrets so that by this sure means he might 
guide them and possibly make them his slaves. 

Angelique’s eyes wandered from his serious, transparently pale face 
to his hands that rested on the table in such tranquil immobility that 
they seemed to typify all the power of the King himself. 

'What weather ! ’ he said, pushing back his chair to rise. ‘Here it is 
only noon, and we need candles already. I can hardly make out your 
face. Come over here to the window so that I can truly see you/ 

She followed him obediently to the bay window down which the rain 
was streaming. 

'I could not really believe that Monsieur du Plessis was as indifferent 
to his wife’s charms as to the use to which she put them. It must 
be your fault, Madame. Why do you not live at your husband’s 

'Monsieur du Plessis has never invited me there/ 

'How funny ! Come, my little toy, tell me what happened at Fontaine- 

'My conduct, I know, was inexcusable, but my husband had just hurt 
me deeply . . . and in public, too/ 

She glanced involuntarily at her hand which still bore the marks of 
Philippe’s insult. The King took her wrist and looked at it, but said 

'I was so hurt that I wished to be by myself. Monsieur de Lauzun 
happened . . / She described how Lauzun had undertaken to console 
her, first with words, then in a more concrete manner. 'It is hard to 
resist Monsieur de Lauzun’s undertakings, Sire. He is so accomplished 
that it is impossible for one to think of propriety or self-protection 


before the situation reaches a point where one would have to make an 
embarrassing scene to get out of it.' 

‘Aha, so that is what happened !' 

‘Monsieur de Lauzun is very sophisticated and perhaps a little 
irresponsible, but at heart he is the kindest and most generous man in 
the world. I am sure Your Majesty knows that as well as 1/ 

‘Hmm,’ said the King slyly. ‘That depends on one's interpretation. 
How charming you are, Madame, when you blush as you are doing 
now ! You are full of tantalising contrasts - bashful, yet brave; gay and 
serious. The other day when I was visiting the greenhouses I noticed 
among the tuberoses a flower of quite a clashing colour. The gardeners 
wanted to pull it out by the roots, they said it was a wild one. But actually 
it was as breath-taking as the others, different though it was. You make 
me think of that wildflower whenever I see you among the other ladies 
of the Court. Now I am willing to believe that it is Monsieur du Plessis 
who is wrong/ 

The King's pleasant expression darkened into a frown. ‘His reputa- 
tion for brutality has always displeased me. I do not like to have in my 
Court anyone who might lead foreigners to think that the manners and 
customs of the French are still coarse, even barbarous. I preach courtesy 
towards women as a necessary discipline for the good name of our 
land. Is it true that your husband struck you in public?' 

‘No!’ Angelique said stubbornly. 

‘Indeed? Well, I think our handsome Philippe might get a great deal 
of good out of a protracted period of meditation within the walls of the 

‘Sire, I came to ask you to set him free. Release him from the Bastille, 
Sire, I entreat you.' 

‘So you love him? I would have said that the milestones along your 
married life marked more bitter memories dian happy reconciliations. I 
have heard that neither of you really knows the other.' 

‘Perhaps. But we have known each other a very long time. He used to 
be the big cousin I adored . . . when we were children.' 

Once again she could picture Philippe with his blond curls dangling 
on the lace collar of the sky-blue jacket he wore the first time he came 
to the castle of Sance. 

She was gazing out of the window, smiling. The rain had stopped, and 
a thin ray of sunlight squeezed between the clouds to glaze the marble 
pavement, over which was approaching an orange-striped coach drawn 
by four black horses. 

‘Even then he would not kiss me,' she sighed. ‘Whenever my sisters 


and I came near him, he would wave us away in horror with his lace 

She began to laugh. 

The King was staring at her. He had long known she was beautiful, 
but now for the first time he was close to her. His eyes feasted on her 
porcelain skin, her peach-like cheeks, the ripe, pulsing fullness of her 
lips. As she brushed a stray blond curl from her temple, he sensed the 
fragrance of her flesh. She exhaled life, warm life, from every pore. 
Impulsively he stretched his hands towards her, grasped her to him. 
How yielding she was ! He bent to her lips parted in a smile. Sweet, 
sweet and warm, so warm. Penetrating, he found her pearl-smooth teeth 
hard against his own . . . 

Robbed of her will, Angelique could barely feel her head forced back 
by his warm hypnotic kiss. Then emerging from her trance, she shud- 
dered. Her hands grasped the shoulders of the King. 

He stepped back, smiling. 'Do not fear. I wished only to judge where 
the responsibility truly lay and determine for myself whether the fault 
was yours through such coldness or reticence as might paralyse the 
normal desires of a husband/ 

Angelique was not so naive as to be deceived by this excuse for what 
she recognised as a surrender to an overpowering passion. 

'Your Majesty is devoting more attention to assessing this matter than 
it deserves/ she said with a smirk. 



The King returned to his chair behind the table, but he did not seem 
annoyed. 'What difference does it make? I do not regret my efforts. From 
henceforth my opinion is that Monsieur du Plessis is a fool, pure and 
simple. He has more than deserved his punishment, and I shall take 
pains to tell him so. I hope that this time he will heed my advice. I 
intend to send him to the army in Picardy for a while to teach him a 
lesson. Don’t cry, little toy, you’ll get your big cousin back/ 

In the marble courtyard Monsieur de Solignac, High Chamberlain of 
the Queen, was just alighting from his orange-striped coach. 


When Madame du Plessis-Belliere returned home with her head in the 
clouds, she found the courtyard of her h6tel obstructed by a mail-coach 
that had been already unhitched and from which a quantity of baggage 


was being unloaded. On the steps of the house stood two little apple- 
cheeked boys stretching out their hands towards her. 

Angelique came back to earth with a thud. Tlorimond! Cantor !’ 

She had completely forgotten the letter she had so hastily sent to 
Poitou demanding that they come to her. Now she could not tell 
whether their arrival was opportune or not. The joy of seeing 
them, however overcame her doubts. She hugged them to her ecstati- 

They looked as ill at ease, as uncommunicative and stupid as any 
rustics in a big city for the first time. Their boots were hobnailed, their 
thick woollen stockings were twisted, their clothes smelled of peat- 

Angelique gasped to see how Cantor had grown. At seven he was as 
tall as his older brother who was tall for his age himself. The two had 
nothing in common except their mops of tousled hair, Florimond’s 
black, and Cantor’s light chestnut. Florimond was a child of the South, 
with a sunny alert face. Cantor’s green eyes were like the marsh weeds 
that glow in the dark reaches of the Poitou swamps; their liquid depth 
was unfathomable, betraying nothing. 

Barbe, the servant who had brought them up, broke the spell of this 
uncomfortable greeting. She was wild with joy at being back in Paris. 
She had no use for eking out the winter, she said, in the depths of a 
country castle with only dull peasants for company and two naughty 
little boys running wild in the fields. And their grandfather, the Baron, 
letting them do whatever they wanted, no matter what she said. It was 
high time they had a good strict schoolmaster to teach them their 
alphabet and not spare the rod. 

They are going to Court,’ Angelique whispered to her, ‘to be play- 
mates for the Dauphin.’ 

Barbe’s eyes expanded with joy. She clasped her hands and looked at 
her two 'bandits’ with new respect. 

‘We’ll have to see they learn some manners!’ 

‘And how to wear a sword and a plume.’ 

‘And how to make a bow.’ 

‘And to wipe their noses, and not to spit, and not to pee wherever they 

‘And to speak to ladies, and answer them with something better than 
a grunt.’ 

How to complete the education of these two young future courtiers 
was going to be a problem. Speed was of the essence. 

Madame de Choisy took it upon herself to handle it. The next day 


she arrived at the H6tel de Beautreillis with a young abbe in tow, as 
slender as a girl with doe eyes peering out from under his powdered wig. 
She introduced him as one of the junior branch of the Lesdiguieres, 
from around Chartres, a good but poor family. She had been entrusted 
with young Maurice by his parents, to whom she was distantly related, 
to help him into society. What better could she do than recommend him 
to Madame du Plessis-Belliere as supervisor of her two boys’ education? 
After all, he had completed his own education and had been a page to 
the Archbishop of Sens. 

Madame de Choisy added that there must also be a tutor on the staff, 
and a dancing master, and a riding master, and a fencing master. She 
knwe three young men who would be just right for these jobs. One was 
named Racan, who was a Bueil. He had studied law, but was too poor to 
buy himself a practice and so was willing to go into service. The 
dancing master was a grandson of the Marquis de Lesbourg, an old 
nobleman of Flanders, whose family, as everyone knew, had all been 
members of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The third was different in 
that he came from an exceedingly rich family, whose only heir he was, 
but was so determined to be a professional swordsman that he had 
forfeited his inheritance. He could handle any weapon known to man, 
including a crossbow, and he could teach a child anything. 

Madame de Choisy also highly recommended two maidens of the 
house of Gilandon in the Chambord country. Their grandmother was 
one of the Joyeuses, and their sister had married the Comte des Roches. 
They were not unintelligent, but they had no beauty, and they would 
be content to work for small wages because their father had deserted 
them after discovering his wife had got pregnant while he was away 
in Spain. 

"But what am I supposed to do with these maidens?’ Angelique 

"Put them in your suite. You shouldn’t be seen without chaperones. It 
doesn’t look well for a woman of your position who is on the way up at 

She explained to Angelique that among the retainers of a well- 
appointed house there were persons from every stratum of society: the 
clergy, as almoners and confessors; the nobility, as squires or pages; 
the middle class as stewards, majordomos, valets, chefs; and lastly the 
plebs as lackeys and ladysmaids, kitchen help, postillions and stable- 

Madame du Plessis did not have a retinue in keeping with her reputa- 
tion and her rank, was the opinion of Madame de Choisy, who wanted 


only to be of help to her. She also hoped the Marquise was devout 
enough to see to it that her staff attended both morning and evening 
prayers, and went to Mass regularly. 

Angelique had not yet succeeded in figuring out what role Madame 
de Choisy had played at Fontainebleau. Had she deliberately misrepre- 
sented the King’s orders? Then she had seemed scandalised, but now 
she was brimming over with kindness. 

She was well past forty, but there were still a twinkle in her eyes and 
charm in her smile. Still, there was something forbidding about her 
that made friendship difficult. The backstairs gossip was that her house 
was like a prison. If a girl went into service with her, she could never 
go out, and she would be worked to death and punished severely to 
boot. Her porter did not dare to open her gates without her express 
orders, and the one time he had disobeyed he was whipped. Once she 
had almost beaten a servant-girl to death. They said she had even 
taken a whip to her husband, but was so repentant afterwards she buried 
herself up to her neck in a swamp by way of penance. 

Angelique was sure that these tales w*ere exaggerated, but Madame de 
Choisy’s propensity for projecting herself into the lives of others was 
sometimes vexing. Rather than see her find some other protege, how- 
ever, Angelique engaged the whole tribe of Racans, Lesdiguieres and 
Gilandons, including the maidens. 

Furthermore Florimond and Cantor definitely had to be put under 
some regime or other. They had reached the age of being wild about 
horses, and would ride anything from their grandfather’s mules to the 
banisters of the great staircase of the Hotel de Beautreillis, which 
rang with the shouts of their mock battles and charges. 

Angelique was so busy with her new domestic arrangements that it 
was only through street gossip she got the news that Philippe had been 
set free. He did not come to see her. She was unsure of what was best 
for her to do. Madame de Montespan insisted that she return to the 
Court as if nothing had happened. 

‘The King has pardoned you. Everyone knows you were with him 
alone for a long, long time. He scolded Monsieur du Plessis in private, 
but that very night your husband had the honour of handing the King 
his nightshirt at Saint-Germain. Everyone knows how much His 
Majesty likes both of you.’ 

Madame de Choisy offered her opinion also. Since the King had 
expressed a wish that Madame du Plessis present her sons to him, she 
should not delay. The royal whim was fickle, and later he might not 
be so well-disposed to them. She had seen Madame de Montausier, the 


wife of the Dauphin’s tutor and governess of the royal children. They 
set a day for Florimond and Cantor to be presented at Court. 

The boys made their appearance at Versailles dressed in teal-blue 
satin with the proper number of ribbons and rosettes, white stockings 
with gold cloches, high heels, and at their sides litde swords chased 
with silver. On their curly mops of hair they wore round felt hats with 
a red feather which was not quite a plume but which stuck out beyond 
the brim in the latest style. Because of the cold weather they wore 
cloaks of black velvet trimmed with gold braid. The Abbe de 
Lesdiguieres observed that Florimond knew instinctively how to 
flourish a cape, something that common persons never could learn. 

Cantor was more awkward. No one worried about how Florimond 
would behave, for he had quickly learned how to bow and walk 
elegantly, but they could only hope and pray that Cantor would 
be inspired to want to do well, for he could if he put his mind 
to it. 

The royal children’s apartments had a cosiness that was utterly 
different from the atmosphere of the rest of the palace of Versailles. 
In one comer was a huge birdcage and beside it were the cradles of the 
two little princesses, swathed in priceless white lace in which were woven 
the coat-of-arms of their estates. Together with the rustling coif of 
Madame Hamelin, the King’s old nurse who often came there to spin, 
these made a continual fluttering of white wings that rendered the 
rooms cheerful and bright. Madame de Montausier had not brought 
up her royal charges too strictly. Good soul that she was, she knew well 
enough how soon they would be enslaved by the harsh discipline of 
their tutors and the rigid etiquette that would govern every one of their 

The Dauphin was a fat little boy whose mouth always hung open 
because of his stuffed-up nose, or so his governess said. Of no more 
than average intelligence, he already seemed ill at ease in his difficult 
role as the son of Louis XIV, an impression he would give for the rest 
of his life. He had grown up as an only child, for his two little sisters 
had died at birth. One was as dark as a Moor, it was said, because the 
Queen had drunk too much chocolate while pregnant. 

Angelique could see that in spite of being overgrown for their age, 
her boys were more graceful, more self-confident and more real persons 
than the heir to the crown. She looked fondly at them as they made 
their bows in perfect style, and then advanced one behind the other 
to kiss the hand that the Dauphin shyly extended to them after 
Madame de Montausier had nodded that it was all right for him to do 

so. And she almost burst with pride when Florimond’s sweet natural 
voice said respectfully: ‘Your Grace, that’s a jolly fine shell you’ve got 

It happened that the ‘shell’ was a priceless jewel the Dauphin had 
found that very morning lying on the gravel of the terrace and had 
insisted on pinning to his coat between the Order of Saint-Louis and 
the star of a Grand Admiral of the Fleet. It was, he insisted, to be 
his very own decoration, and the Maids of Honour had ended by giving 
in to him. 

Floriinond’s remark reminded the Dauphin of his treasure, which he 
proceeded to display in all its details to his new friends. His shyness 
vanished, and he dragged them to see his collection of china monkeys, 
his toy cannon, his drum with cloth-of-silver heads. 

Florimond’s intuitive sense of what to do and say completely dis- 
pelled any anxiety on the part of his tutors. The young abbe and 
Racan glanced knowingly at Angelique, who was herself so gratified 
that she resolved to slip them thirty ecus that evening. 

Apparently spontaneously, but actually by prearranged protocol, the 
Queen with ten of her ladies and a few of her retinue of noblemen put 
in an appearance. After making his bows Cantor was asked to sing for 
the Queen. This produced the first false note in the otherwise perfect 
performance, for the boy knelt on one knee and after strumming a few 
introductory bars, launched into his favourite song: 

Let the drums roll, said the King, 

All my ladies fair to bring . . . 

The abbe descended on him and snatched up his lute, which he said 
loudly was quite out of tune. Whil he was tuning it, he whispered to 
his pupil, who willingly began another song. 

Hardly anyone noticed the incident, and least of all the Queen, whose 
Spanish background had left her totally unacquainted with French 

Angelique vaguely recalled that Cantor’s interrupted song dated 
from a century ago and referred to the sub rosa love affairs of Henri IV, 
but she was quite grateful to the abbe for covering up the blunder 
in time. Yes, she was very thankful to Madame de Choisy for all her 

Cantor had the voice of an angel, ineffably pure and unwavering, and 
he could hold a note without a tremolo. It had none of the monotonous 
insipidity of most children’s voices. 


The ladies had been prepared merely to listen politely, but were over- 
come with delight at this infant prodigy. Florimond, at first the centre of 
attention, now had to take second place. Everyone commented on the 
radiance of the little singer's face, and how his eyes shone and sparkled 
when he sang. 

Monsieur de Vivonne was the most enthusiastic of all, and his previ- 
ous attempts to flatter Angelique were nothing compared to his 
eloquent compliments now. Like many other gay blades of the Court, he 
had several talents that he practised in private for his own amusement. 
Brother of Madame de Montespan, Captain of the Galleys and a 
Lieutenant-General in the Navy, he yet composed poetry and songs, 
and could play several musical instruments. On several occasions he 
had been entrusted with the production of the Court ballets, and had 
had many triumphs. He now asked Cantor to sing some of his ballads, 
naming the least indecorous of them. One was a Christmas carol, full of 
gentle grace, which quite transported the company. The Queen 
demanded that Lully be fetched at once. 

The King’s music master was rehearsing his choirboys, and came 
quite unwillingly, but his face lit up as soon as he heard Cantor. A 
voice of such quality was rare indeed, he said. He could not believe the 
child was only eight, for his voice had the power of an eleven-year- 

Then the music master grew gloomy again and pouted. The career of 
the prodigy was destined to be short. His voice would certainly be 
ruined when it changed unless he were castrated when he was ten or 
eleven. Such emasculated voices were in great demand. Young eunuchs 
with their superb tones were the finest ornaments of the princely 
chapels of Europe. They were recruited generally from the children of 
poor musicians or mountebanks who wanted to assure their sons a 
splendid career rather than subject them to a normal life in which they 
might never rise above mediocrity. 

Angelique let out a cry of protest. Castrate her manly little Cantor! 
How horrible ! Thank God, he was of noble birth and his future would 
not suffer from the loss of his gift. No, he would learn to wield his 
sword in the King’s service and grow up to have a long line of 

Lully’s opinions gave rise to several jokes around the Court where 
lords and ladies had a knack for coining phrases. Cantor passed from 
hand to hand and was petted, complimented, encouraged. He accepted 
all these tributes with his customary air of a purring tomcat, but he 
gave them scant attention. 


Everyone agreed that when men took over the Dauphin’s education, 
Florimond and Cantor would be among the suite that would accom- 
pany him to the riding academy, the tennis courts and soon enough to 
the hunt. 


It was that season of the year when Paris began gradually to awake 
to the sound of violins and the ring of happy laughter. In spite of the 
fact that the treaties had brought peace, a wartime atmosphere still 
obtained, and most of the nobles were away. 

Angelique noticed wryly that it was becoming hard for her to keep 
up with things. Her pregnancy was beginning to slow her down. Here 
again Philippe was the cause of a handicap that would soon put her in 
the shadows. She was already so big that she could no longer get into 
her favourite gowns. It was just her luck that this child would have to 
be the biggest of all she had carried. 

Except for the royal festivities, she still continued to go to Saint- 
Germain, where anyone could appear without an invitation. The 
conduct of the kingdom’s business filled the corridors with a modey 

Government clerks with goose-quills stuck behind their ears josded 
ambassadors. Learned aldermen discussed markets among great ladies 
and fluttering fans. 

There she encountered an old alchemist named Savary who had come 
to her house as a petitioner. 

A young woman stopped as she was about to pass them and let out a 
little shriek as she seized Savary by his lapels and stared at him in- 
tently. Angelique recognised her as Mademoiselle de Brienne. 

T know you,’ she whispered. ‘You are a soothsayer, perhaps even a 
sorcerer. Can we come to terms?’ 

‘You are mistaken, Madame. I have a litde fame, and it is true that 
they speak well of me here, but I am only a modest scholar.’ 

‘I know,’ she insisted, her lovely eyes shining like carbuncles, ‘I know 
how much you can do. You have potions you have brought back from 
the East. Listen, you must get me the privilege of the footstool. Name 
your own price.’ 

‘Things like that are not got with money.’ 

‘Then I will give myself to you, body and soul.’ 

‘Oh, my poor child, you are out of your head.’ 


Think it over, Monsieur Savary. It can't be hard for you. I can 
see no other way of getting the King to give me the footstool. And I 
must have it, I must. I will do anything to get it/ 

‘Well, well, all right, 111 think it over/ 

But he refused the purse Mademoiselle de Brienne tried hard to slip 
into his hand. 

Later Angelique encountered Mademoiselle de Brienne again at a 
card table. Mademoiselle de Brienne was a pretty brunette, rather 
tantalising, but also stuck-up and extremely ill-mannered. She had 
been at Court since she was a child. She had a one-track mind, if mind 
indeed it could be called. Cards, drinking and love-making were as 
harmless pastimes for her as embroidery and lace-making were for 
middle-class girls of her age. 

Soon she had lost 10,000 livres at cards to Angelique. She admitted 
she could not raise that much to pay the debt at once. 

‘I might have known that old devil of an alchemist would bring you 
luck,' she said, pouting like a child on the verge of tears. ‘What I 
would give to get his help ! I've lost almost 30,000 livres this one week. 
My brother is going to raise hell with me and say I am ruining him/ 
Then, realising that Angelique was apparently not going to extend 
her credit very long, she added: ‘Would you like to buy my office of 
Consul of Candia? I have been thinking of selling it. It’s worth 40,000 
livres / 

At the word ‘office’ Angelique pricked up her ears. ‘Consul?’ 


‘Of Candia?’ 

‘That’s some city or other in Crete, I think,’ Mademoiselle de Brienne 
informed her. 

‘But a woman can’t be a consul . . / 

‘Yes she can. I have had it three years now. It doesn’t require actual 
residence and, as a matter of fact, gives one a certain rank at Court 
where any consul at all, even one in a petticoat, has permission to reside, 
and can even be obliged to do so. If you were to buy it I hope you would 
buy the perquisites also. Oh dear, that’s not the way it ought to be 
either. The two managers I sent there are pirates and all the business 
they do goes into their pockets, but I still have to pay their wages. I 
shouldn’t be telling you this when I’m suggesting you buy it, but I’m 
an awful fool, anyway. Perhaps you could do better than I. Forty 
thousand livres isn’t much. I could get out of debt and have some- 
thing left over/ 

‘I will think about it,’ Angelique said non-committally. 

The thought went to her head like strong drink. Consul of France ! 
She had dreamed of many titles, but never of that. 

The interior of Colbert’s home and particularly his office was a model 
of simple bourgeois comfort. So cold by temperament that Madame de 
Sevigne nicknamed him ‘Mr North Pole’, he had no taste for luxury. 
Frugality was so inherent in him that he allowed no gratification of his 
vanity other than the impeccable and over-detailed way in which he 
kept his accounts, and the establishment of his family tree. No expense 
was too great for the latter, and he paid a whole army of clerks to do 
research in the illegible scrawls of family records in order to prove some 
relationship that might entitle him to a claim to nobility. This maggot, 
however, did not keep him from seeing quite clearly all the faults of 
the aristocracy and how the middle class was destined to grow in im- 
portance, for it was then the only vital and intelligent class in the 

Madame du Plessis apologised for disturbing him. She told, him she 
was about to acquire the Consulate of Candia, and because she knew 
he superintended the distribution of such posts, she wished his 

Colbert scowled at her at first, then softened. It was not often, he 
admitted, that beautiful dimwits stopped to think of the consequences 
before accepting a post. Most of the time he had to play the unsym- 
pathetic role of censor of petition, being often obliged to refuse 
demands that were too foolish or unsuitable, or too liable to interfere 
with the progress of government, or too burdensome financially - a 
role that hardly endeared him to those who had thought their petitions 

Angelique perceived that for a woman to hold the post of Consul did 
not disturb him, that it was a common enough thing. 

To him Candia, the capital of Crete, was the best slave market in 
the Mediterranean. It was also the only place where one could buy 
strong, sober Russians for only 100 or 1 50 livres apiece from the Turks 
who captured them during their continual batdes in Armenia, the 
Ukraine, Hungary and Poland. 

This consideration is not unimportant for us now that we are striving 
to expand our maritime trade and increase the number of our galleys 
in the Mediterranean. The Moors, Tunisians and. Algerians we capture 
in our batdes with the pirates are poor workers. They are useful only 
to fill out a retinue when one can’t afford better, and to exchange for 


Christian captives. They are no good as galley slaves either, for they 
get seasick and die like flies. The best galley slaves are the Turks and 
Russians sold in the markets of Candia, for they are excellent sailors. 
I am tired of saying that the basis for the fine crews of the English 
ships consists of these Russian slaves. The English hold them in high 
esteem and pay their agents well to get them. For all these reasons 
Candia is not lacking in interest to me/ 

‘What is the situation of the French there?’ Angelique asked him. 
She had not quite pictured herself as a slave-dealer. 

‘Our representatives are respected, I believe. Crete is a Venetian 
colony. For years the Turks have tried to conquer it, and the island 
has had to repulse many attacks/ 

‘But is it safe to invest money there?’ 

‘That depends. Sometimes a nation’s commerce does well in time of 
war -that is, if the nation is neutral. France has firm alliances with 
Venice as well as with Turkey/ 

‘Mademoiselle de Brienne told me frankly she got no revenue from 
her post. She blamed her managers who, she said, work only for their 
own profit/ 

‘That is quite possible. Get me their names and I will investigate/ 

‘Well - will you support my candidacy for this post, sir?’ 

Colbert did not answer her at once. Finally he said, frowning again: 
‘Yes. In every way it would be better off in your hands, Madame 
Morens, than in those of Mademoiselle de Brienne or of some idiotic 
nobleman or other. Besides, it fits in perfectly with the projects I had 
in mind for you/ 

‘For me?’ 

‘Yes. Did you think we would let abilities like yours go unused for 
the good of the nation? One of His Majesty’s greatest talents is his 
knack for making arrows out of any kind of wood. So far as you are 
concerned the only obstacle is his doubt that a woman of your beauty 
and charm can have other qualities such as good business sense. I con- 
vinced him that he should not appoint you too quickly to just any 
position at Court, which any fool could fill. You have more important 
things to do than solicit a place in the Queen’s suite or some other silly 
post. Leave that to the daughters of impoverished aristocrats who have 
only their virginity to pay for it. Your fortune is immense and well 
invested. In that lies your power/ 

The blunt approach of the Comptroller awoke in Angelique a certain 
bitterness. So it was he who had opposed all her requests 1 He had no 
tact, and the King proved himself a man of integrity in supporting him. 

‘Of course I have money/ she said drily, *but surely not enough to 
save the kingdom/ 

‘Who said anything about money? It's a question of work . It’s work 
that will save the country and bring back its squandered wealth little 
by little. Look here, once I was a simple linen draper, now I am Comp- 
troller, but does that flatter me? On the other hand. I am proud of 
being director of the royal manufactories. 

‘We not only can but should invest more in France than in foreign 
countries. But our loyalties are too divided. For instance, I could have 
continued in business for myself and increased my own fortune, but I 
preferred to learn statecraft from Cardinal Mazarin and lend my busi- 
ness acumen and organisational abilities to the State. As a result the 
nation has grown stronger, and I along with it. The King himself, young 
as he is, began early to follow the same principle. He too was one of the 
Cardinal’s pupils, but he was wiser than his teacher, for he knew the 
goods he was selling. The late Cardinal knew nothing about the 
French, even though he had great powers of intuition, both as to politics 
and human nature. Our sovereign works harder than four other kings, 
and he does not think it beneath him to assemble around him plenty 
of persons to whom he can delegate responsibility/ 

The longer he spoke, the more angry Colbert seemed to grow. When 
he finally stopped, his expression was so furious that Angelique could 
not keep from asking him why. 

‘Because I don’t know what’s got into me to tell you all this. If my 
wife ever heard me gossiping this way, there would be the devil to 

Angelique reassured him that many other men with a reputation for 
being close-mouthed had also blamed her for drawing them out of their 

‘Believe me, sir, I won’t betray your confidence. Everything you have 
said interests me deeply, so deeply that it should encourage you to con- 
tinue this discourse with which you have been so kind as to honour me/ 

Colbert looked like a bird that has swallowed a worm too big for it. 
He hated flattery because he always suspected an ulterior motive 
behind it. But when he glanced dourly at Angelique, he saw she was 

‘After all/ he growled, ‘the capacity to be interested in what some- 
one else is saying is rare/ His smile returned. ‘Always show it to old 
fools like me. Your own charms are enough for the young fools. And 
your whole manner can easily persuade women to follow you. In fact, 
you have a formidable battery of assault/ 


'But how should I deploy this arsenal?’ 

The Comptroller reflected a moment. 'First of all, you should never 
leave the Court. Attach yourself to it, follow it wherever it goes, and 
make an effort to know as many people as possible and as intimately as 

Angelique had a hard time concealing the extreme satisfaction his 
advice gave her. 'This . . . this kind of work does not seem very hard/ 

'We shall use you for various missions, especially those dealing with 
maritime trade, or, in short, all kinds of trade and its adjuncts, such as 


'I mentioned fashion to convince His Majesty that he could entrust 
important assignments to you, a woman. Let me explain. For example, 
I want to steal the secret of making point de Venise lace which is all 
the rage now and which no one can imitate. I have tried to prevent the 
importation of it, but these lords and ladies smuggle in collars and 
cuffs made of it under their cloaks, and so three million livres a year 
find their way into Italy. Whether legal or illegal, it is a sad thing for 
French industry. Otherwise there would be no reason for stealing the 
secret of that lace which our dandies have to have. I want to establish 
the manufacture of it here/ 

'I should have to go to Venice/ 

'I do not think so. In Venice you would be under suspicion. I have 
good reason to believe that these agents operate at Court. They are 
courtiers themselves. Through them you can trace the thread back to 
the spider and learn at least the source of supply. I suspect the two 
members of the Marseilles Board of Trade. It must bring them a huge 

Angelique was deep in thought. 'This work you want me to do looks 
very much like spying/ 

Colbert agreed. The word did not shock him. Spies? Everyone used 
them everywhere. 

‘Business goes the same way. For instance, some new shares in the 
East India Company are soon going to be released. Your market for 
them is the Court. It will be up to you to make the Indies fashionable, 
get the conservatives to invest, and so on. There is money at Court. 
Why let it all go up in smoke or be frittered away? Don’t you see 
already how many opportunities you will find to exercise your talents? 
The only thing that worries us is what official title to give you. Wait, 
your Cretan Consulate will do as a facade and as an alibi/ 

'But its perquisites are very small/ 


‘Don’t be silly I It’s understood that your official duties will bring 
you enormous stipends. They will be fixed according to each job. You 
will be able to have an interest in all that goes well/ 

Out of habit, she began figuring. ‘Forty thousand livres is a lot of 

It’s a pinch of salt to you. Think a moment that a post as procurator 
would cost you 175,000. Mine cost my predecessor 1,400,000. The King 
paid it for me because he wanted me in the position. But I feel in- 
debted to the King. That’s why I won’t rest until I have earned him 
many times that amount through making his country prosperous/ 

‘So this is the Court/ Angelique said to herself, ‘or so the guileless 
think - dancing the night away at the Palais-Royal, flooded with light, a 
stage for one everlasting festivity/ 

Her face concealed by a black velvet mask, she was watching the 
dancing couples. The King had opened the ball with Madame in his 
costume of Jupiter from the ballet of ‘A Feast on Olympus’. All eyes 
were on him. His golden mask could not preserve his incognito. He 
wore a gold helmet encrusted with rubies and rose-diamonds and 
topped with a flame-coloured crest of feathers. His entire costume was of 
cloth of gold, sparkling with the thousands of diamonds sewn into its 
embroidered patterns. 

The next day the poet Loret himself could only say in praise of that 

The trappings of the prince 
Would buy a whole province. 

‘So much wealth/ thought Angelique. ‘That’s the Court!’ 

Yes, that was the Court -folly, extravagance. Yet if one looked 
closely, what a surprise! A young, discreet King pulling the strings 
of marionettes. And an even closer look revealed that behind their 
masks the marionettes themselves were alive, burning with passion, 
mean ambitions, strange consecrations . . . 

Her recent conversation with Colbert had opened new and un- 
imagined vistas to Angelique. As she thought of the role he had 
assigned her, she wondered whether every mask here did not conceal 
some secret mission. ‘It is not the King’s custom to let abilities go un- 
used . . / 

Once in this same Palais-Royal, which then was called the Palais- 


Cardinal, Richelieu had walked in his purple robe as he hatched his 
schemes to dominate the realm. No one ever entered here then who was 
not in his service. His net of spies was like a mammoth spiderweb. He 
employed many women. Those creatures/ he would say, ‘have an 
instinctive gift for deception and dissimulation/ Was the young King 
adopting the same principle for himself? 

As Angelique left the ball, a page handed her a note. She turned 
away to read it. It was from Colbert. 

‘You may consider the post at Court you solicited granted perma- 
nendy under the stipulated conditions. Your title of Consul of France 
will be in your hands tomorrow/ 

She folded the note and slipped it into her purse. A smile played 
around the comers of her mouth. She had won at last. 

And, taking everything into consideration, what was so strange about 
a marquise being a Consul of France, when baronesses were fish- 
mongers, and duchesses sold theatre seats, and the Minister of War 
wanted the mail-coach franchise, and when the most licentious people 
in the whole Court were endowed with the benefices of the Church? 




Angelique dismissed her servants and the Gilandon girls, and undressed 
herself slowly. Her mind was too busy running over the last episodes of 
her victory to put up with their fussing around her. Earlier this same 
day her business manager had delivered 40,000 livres in cash to Made- 
moiselle de Brienne's, and she had received her commission from the 
King through the agency of Colbert. She had affixed her signature to a 
great quantity of documents, blotted with sand innumerable pages of 
writing, and paid out 10,000 more livres in taxes, registration fees, and 
other supplementary impositions. 

She could not have been more satisfied, except for a worrisome 
thought in the back of her mind about Philippe. 

What would he say when he found out? Previously, he had defied 
her to remain at the Court and had given her to understand that he 
would do everything in his power to keep her away from it. But his 
imprisonment in the Bastille and his army duty had given Angelique 
plenty of leisure in which to conduct her own aSairs. 

And so she was victorious - but not without apprehension. Philippe 
had come back from Picardy a week before. The King himself informed 
Madame du Plessis-Belliere of this fact, implying how much his wish to 
please her had led him to wipe off the slate Philippe's serious offence 
in disobeying his express orders by fighting a duel. 

Angelique thanked His Majesty, and then asked how she should 
behave. What should a wife's attitude be towards a husband who had 
been thrown into prison because she had deceived him? She was in 
doubt, but everything led her to believe that her husband's attitude 
would be much more clearly defined. Laughed at, blamed by the King, 
blocked at every turn, Philippe would hardly be in a kindly frame of 
mind towards her. 

She considered all the actual grievances Philippe might hold against 
her, realising that she could expect the worst. Hence her haste in con- 
cluding a bargain which would be a defence for her against her hus- 
band's being ostracised. That was a fait accompli now. 

Nothing had been heard from Philippe. She learned that he had gone 
to pay his respects to the King, and that the King had received him 
with affection. Then he had been seen at Ninon's in Paris. He had also 
gone hunting twice with the King. This very day, while she was sign- 
ing documents at Colbert’s, Philippe was in the forest of Marly. 


Had he decided to leave her in peace? She wished she could believe 
he had. But Philippe nursed grudges. His silence was more likely diat 
of a tiger crouching to spring. Angelique sighed. 

Deep in these thoughts, she unfastened the bows that held her bodice, 
dropping the pins one by one into an onyx tray. Once she had it off 
she undid the shoulder-knots of her three petticoats, letting them drop 
around her feet. Stepping out of this pool of ruffles, she took from the 
back of an armchair the nightgown of fine lawn that Javotte had laid 
out for her. Then she bent down to unfasten her satin garters studded 
with precious stones. All her movements were slow and thoughtful. 
In these latter weeks she had lost much of her usual quickness. 

As she took off her bracelets she moved towards her dressing-table 
to replace them in their cases. The big oval mirror reflected her image 
in a golden haze from the candlelight. A little sadly she contemplated 
the perfection of her face and the fresh pink colouring of her cheeks and 
lips. The lace of her nightgown set off the youthful fullness of her 
shoulders and the round supple neck which rose swan-like above them. 

This point de Venise is certainly beautiful. Colbert is right in want- 
ing it domesticated in France/ 

She fluffed up the flounces of lace with her fingertip. Her pearly skin 
seemed to glimmer through the almost transparent flowers of the 
exquisite handiwork. A panel of lace stretched low over her breasts, 
which peeped through it like violets from among their leaves. 

Angelique raised her bare arms to unfasten the strand of pearls she 
had wound in her hair like a diadem. It fell in lustrous coils on to 
the table. Even with her distended abdomen, yes, she was still lovely. 
The insidious question Lauzun had asked her haunted her: Tor 
whom?' How could her body be so desirable to one and so unalluring 
to another? 

With another sigh she took up her dressing-gown of crimson taffeta 
and wrapped herself in it with due consideration for effect. Yet what was 
she going to do tonight? She was not sleepy. 

Should she write to Ninon de Lenclos? Or to Madame de Sevigne, 
whom she had rather neglected lately? Or go over her accounts as she 
used to at dmes like this when she was in business? 

She heard a man's footsteps moving along the entrance hall, and 
the jingle of spurs as they began to mount the staircase. No doubt it 
was Malbrant, Florimond’s and Cantor's riding master whom they had 
nicknamed ‘Swordthrust’. He was probably coming back from one of 
the fencing matches he loved. 

But the steps came nearer and nearer her door. 

Suddenly Angelique realised whose they were. She sprang up to slip 
the bolt, but she was too late. The Marquis du Plessis-Belliere stood 
before her in the doorway. 

He was still wearing his silver-grey hunting coat trimmed with black 
fur, a black hat with a single white plume, and black boots covered with 
mud and slush. In his black-gloved hands was his long dog-whip. For 
a moment he stood there motionless, his legs spread, while his eyes took 
in the whole picture of her before her dressing-table surrounded by all 
the disorder of her clothes and jewels. A smile spread slowly over his 

Then stepping inside the room, he shut the door behind him, and 
shot the bolt into its socket. 

‘Good evening, Philippe.’ 

Pier heart leaped with an emotion compounded of fear and pleasure 
at seeing him. 

How handsome he was! She had almost forgotten how handsome, 
how distinguished, how glitteringly perfect in every detail. He was the 
handsomest man in the Court, and he was hers, as once she had 
dreamed he might be. 

‘Weren’t you expecting a visit from me, Madame?’ 

‘Yes indeed I was . . . that is, I was hoping . . 

‘My word, you are brave ! Didn’t you have good reason to fear my 

‘Yes. That is why I thought the sooner our meeting took place, the 
better. Nothing is gained by postponing a dose of bitter medicine.’ 

Philippe’s face plunged into an expression of insane anger. ‘Hypo- 
crite! Traitor! You will be hard put to persuade me you wanted to see 
me when all the time you have been trying your best to out- 
manoeuvre me. Haven’t I just found out that you have got two perma- 
nent posts at Court?’ 

‘You are well up on things.* 

‘I certainly am,’ he snarled. 

‘You . . . you don’t seem to like that.’ 

‘Did you think I would after you got me in prison so that you could 
set your snares in peace? And now . . . now you think you have 
escaped me. But the last card has not been played. I’ll make you pay 
dearly for your trading. You couldn’t possibly conceive the price of 
the punishment I have prepared for you.’ 

His whip cracked on the floor with a noise like thunder. Angelique 
shrieked. Her resistance crumpled. 

She ran to the bed alcove for refuge and began to weep. No, no, she 

could not go through another scene like her wedding night at Plessis. 

'Don't hurt me, Philippe/ she pleaded. 'Oh, please, don't hurt me. 
Think of our child.' 

Philippe stopped cold. His eyes opened wide. 'Child? What child?' 

'The one I am carrying. Your child!' 

A heavy silence descended over both of them, broken only by 
Angelique's muffled sobs. Finally the Marquis began to peel off his 
gauntlets, laying them along with his whip on the dressing-table. He 
moved towards his wife, suspicion written on his face. 

'Show me,' he said. 

He ripped open her dressing-gown, then flinging back his head, he 
roared with laughter. 

'My God, it’s true! You're as big as a cow!' 

He sat beside her on the edge of the bed and drew her towards him 
by her shoulders. ‘Why didn't you tell me sooner, you wild little beast? 
I would not have frightened you so.' 

She was weeping in short nervous starts, her will-power quite gone. 

‘Come now,' he said, 'don't cry. Don't cry.’ 

It was a strange thing for her to find her head leaning against her 
brutal husband's shoulder, her face buried in his blond curls per- 
fumed with jasmine, and to feel his hand sofdy stroking her belly where 
a new life quivered. 

'When will it be bom?’ 

‘Soon. In January/ 

'It must have been at Plessis/ he said after a moment's thought. 'I 
am overjoyed to think that my son was conceived under my ancestral 
roof. Hmm! All our violent quarrels will do him no harm. They're a 
good omen. He will be a warrior. Haven't you something here for us 
to toast him with/ 

He went to a cabinet and fetched two goblets and a bottle of Beaune 
which were put there daily in case guests should come. 

'Come, let's drink to him, even if you don't wish to clink glasses with 
me. It's only fitting that we salute our common enterprise. Why do you 
look at me with such stupid astonishment? Because at last you’ve spied 
out a way to disarm me? Be patient, my dear, I am too pleased at the 
thought of having an heir not to treat you well. I will honour our truce. 
We can resume the battle later. Just be sure you don't take advantage 
of my good humour to play one of your dirty tricks. In January, did 
you say? Good. From now on I am going to keep my eye on you/ 

He drained his glass and sent it crashing on the flagstones, shout- 
ing: 'Long live the heir of Miremont du Plessis de Belliere!' 


‘Philippe/ murmured Angelique, ‘you are a puzzling person, the most 
so I have ever met. For a man to receive such an announcement from 
me at such a moment and not tell me to my face that I was saddling 
him with a paternity for which he was not responsible ! I was sure you 
were going to accuse me of marrying you when I was already pregnant 
by someone else/ 

Philippe was drawing on his gauntlets again. He looked at her darkly, 
almost angrily. ‘In spite of the gaps in my education/ he said, ‘I can 
still count up to nine. If this child is not mine, nature by now would 
have compelled you to show it to the world. Just the same I will say 
I think you capable of any trick in the world, but not of quite such 
a despicable one/ 

‘It’s not unusual with women. From someone like you who hates them 
so, I expected a less trusting reaction/ 

‘You are not a woman like other women/ he said. 'You are my wifeV 
Then he strode out, leaving her dreaming and stirred by an emotion 
something like hope. 

On a bleak morning in January when the pale sun on the snow crust 
cast ghostly reflections on the dark tapestries of her walls, Angelique 
felt that her time was come. She had Madame Cordet, the midwife 
whose services she had engaged, summoned from the Marais quarter. 
Several great ladies of her acquaintance had recommended her, for she 
had the strong character and also the good humour necessary to satisfy 
a demanding clientele. She brought with her two apprentices to lend 
importance to her mission, and had a big trestle table set up by the 
hearth on which she could work, as she put it, ‘more comfortably’. 

A brazier of coals was fetched to raise the temperature of the room. 
Servants were put to rolling balls of lint, and boiling water in copper 
ketdes. Madame Cordet began by steeping medicinal herbs, and the 
room soon smelled like a country meadow under the summer sun. 

Angelique was terribly nervous and short-tempered. She did not look 
forward to her accouchement, and wished someone else could have her 
baby for her. Unable to stay in bed, she kept pacing the room, stopping 
every time she passed the window to look out at the snow-padded street. 
Through the tiny leaded panes she could just make out the smoky out- 
lines of the passers-by. A lurching, rocking coach pitched along, drawn 
by four horses emitting clouds of steam from their nostrils. Its occupant 
was shouting at the driver, and the coachman was swearing while the 
neighbours laughed. 

It was the day after Epiphany and all Paris had sore throats from 
yelling The King Drinks’, or was sick from overeating the huge Twelfth 
Night cakes and drinking goblet after goblet of wine. There had been 
much feasting at the Hotel de Beautreillis. Florimond was the ‘King’, 
wearing a gold paper crown and lifting his glass to all the cheers. 
Today everyone was sleepy and yawning. A fine day to bring a child 
into the world ! 

In her impatience Angelique kept asking about housekeeping details. 
Had the left-overs been given to the poor? Yes, four baskets had been 
taken to the cripples’ pole that very morning. Two buckets had been 
taken to the Blue Children, the orphans of the Temple district, and to 
the Red Children, the orphans of the Hotel-Dieu. Had the tablecloths 
been set to soak? The plates been put away? The knives cleaned with 

Madame Cordet tried to calm her. Why did she need to worry about 
such things, when she had plenty of servants, and could leave all those 
matters to her majordomo? There were more important things for her 
to think about. But Angelique did not wish to think about them. 

"No one would ever believe this was your third baby,’ scolded the 
midwife. ‘You’re putting on a big enough act for a first.’ 

Indeed she had made less fuss the other times. She remembered how 
quiet she had been when Florimond arrived, even though she was 
frightened. She had been more courageous then, had all the reserve 
strength of a young animal that has not lived long enough to doubt its 
capacities. Now too many misfortunes had sapped her energy. Her 
nerves were tenser. 

The baby’s too big,’ she groaned. The others weren’t so big.’ 

‘Bah, don’t tell me! I saw your youngest outside there. Built the 
way he is now, he couldn’t have tickled much when he came through.’ 

The birth of Cantor 1 She did not want to remember that nightmare, 
that dark, icy whirlpool of pain and sorrow. In thinking of the horrible 
charity hospital where so many innocent babes uttered their first wails, 
Angelique grew ashamed of her complaints and tried to appear less 

She consented at last to sit in a big armchair with a cushion at the 
small of her back, and a footstool under her feet. One of the Gilandon 
girls offered to read her some prayers, but Angelique told her to go 
for a walk. What business did such a silly girl have in a delivery room? 
She told her to find the Abbe de Lesdiguieres and if they could find 
nothing to say to each other, then they could pray for her or go and 
light a candle at Saint-Paul’s. 


Eventually her pains became more frequent and more severe, and 
Madame Cordet made her stretch out on the table before the fire. 
Angelique did not restrain her screams as the moment approached 
when the fruit ready to fall seemed to tear up with it the roots of the 
tree on which it had been ripening. Her own ears rang with her groans. 
She thought she heard a moving van outside, and a door slam. 

*Oh, Monsieur le Marquis!’ said Therese. 

She did not understand until she saw Philippe standing by her pillow, 
more noticeable than ever among these women busy about women’s 
things. He was in Court dress, wearing his sword, his lace cuffs, his 
wig, his white-plumed hat. 

'Philippe, what are you doing here? What do you want? Why did 
you come?’ 

His expression was ironic and haughty. 'Today my son will be born 
Don’t you think I have any interest in that?’ 

Her indignation brought Angelique back to life. She raised up on 
one elbow. 'You just came to see me suffer/ she said. 'You are a monster. 
The most cruel, the most cowardly, the most . . / 

A new spasm cut her off. She fell back gasping for breath. 

'Come, come/ said Philippe, 'don’t waste your strength/ 

He laid his hand on her moist forehead and began stroking her brow 
and murmuring words she scarcely understood but which soothed her 
with their sound. 

'Easy, easy, now, my dear. Everything is going fine. Courage, my 
sweet . . .’ 

'That is the first time he has ever caressed me/ Angelique thought. 
'They are the same words he uses for his bitches or his mares when 
they are in labour. Why not? What else am I now but a poor animal? 
They say he will stay patiendy with them for hours, comforting them 
until they give birth, and that the most ferocious of them will lick his 
hands . . / 

He was indeed the last man in the world to whom she would have 
gone for help at such a time, but, as she herself had said, Philippe du 
Plessis-Belliere would never cease to astonish her. Under his hand she 
relaxed and felt stronger. 

‘Does he think I can’t bring his child into the world? Ill show him 
what I can do. I won’t utter a single yell.’ 

'Everything is going fine/ said Philippe’s voice. ‘Don’t be afraid. You 
other hothouse plants, help her a litde. What the hell do you 
think . . .’ 

He was addressing the women as if they were kennel-keepers. 

in the semi-consciousness of the last moments Angelique looked up 
at Philippe. In her dark-circled eyes, veiled with a pathetic tenderness 
he caught a glimpse of what would be her downfall. This woman he had 
thought made wholly of stony ambition and underhanded plotting was 
capable of weakness. Her look brought back the past. It was the look 
of a little girl in a grey dress whom he was holding by the hand and 
presenting to the mocking laughter of his friends as the ‘Baroness of 
the Doleful Garb’. Philippe ground his teeth. He put his hand before 
his eyes to blot out that look. 

‘Don’t be afraid/ he repeated. ‘There’s nothing to fear now/ 

‘It’s a boy/ said the midwife. 

Angelique saw Philippe holding at arm’s length a little red bundle 
wrapped in linen, and shouting: ‘My son I My son!’ 

They carried her back to the perfumed sheets of her bed that had 
been heated with a warming-pan. Sleep overcame her, but before she 
yielded to it she looked for Philippe. He was leaning over his son’s 

‘Now I am no longer of interest to him/ she said to herself. But a 
feeling of happiness remained with her as she slept. 

It was not until she held the new baby in her arms for the first time 
that Angelique realised what this new existence meant. 

He was a lovely infant. His swaddling clothes of fine linen bordered 
with satin so completely enswathed him, even to a hood over his head, 
that only a litde pink porcelain circle peeped out, dotted with two tiny 
drcles of pale blue that soon would become the same dark sapphire 
colour of his father’s. The nurses and the servant girls kept saying 
his fuzz was as yellow as a baby chick’s and he was as plump as a 

Tt is the child of my bosom/ thought Angelique, ‘and yet it is not 
Joffrey de Peyrac’s child. I have mixed my blood, which belonged to 
him, with a stranger’s/ She saw in the child the fruit of a betrayal she 
had not hitherto realised. ‘I am no longer your wife, Joffrey/ she 

Would he have wished it thus? She began to cry. 

‘I want to see Florimond and Cantor/ she called between sobs. ‘Bring 
my children to me/ 

When they came towards her she shuddered at the sight of them 
dressed, by chance, in black velvet. How different they were from each 
other, yet so alike in their equal height, their pale colouring, their 


thick hair falling over their lace collars. They placed their hands in hers 
in the old familiar gesture of babyhood, as if they seemed thus to draw 
strength from her to follow the course of their perilous future. Then 
they bowed to her and sat down on two footstools. The unusual sight 
of their mother stretched out in bed made them quiet. 

Angelique tried hard to swallow the lump that rose in her throat. She 
did not wish to upset them. 

She asked them if they had seen their new brother. Yes, they had. 
What did they think of him? Apparently they had no thoughts at all 
about him, but after exchanging looks with Cantor, Florimond ad- 
mitted that he was a ‘nice little cherub’. 

The result of the combined efforts of their various tutors was truly 
remarkable. A system of rules administered by a birch-rod had done 
part of the work, but most of it had been due to the intelligence of the 
boys themselves in coping with their difficult new disciplines. Because 
they had endured hunger and cold and fear, they could adjust them- 
selves to anything. Give them the freedom of the countryside, they 
became wild savages; dress them in fancy clothes and oblige them to 
bow and make polite conversation, they became perfect little noblemen. 
Angelique was aware now for the first time of their amazing flexibility. 
'Adaptable as only poverty could teach them to be!’ 

‘Cantor, my troubadour, won’t you sing something for me?’ 

The boy went for his guitar, and after strumming a few chords, 

Let the drums roll, said the King, 

All my ladies fair to bring. 

And the first ones he did see 
Roused his curiosity . . . 

You loved me, Joffrey, and I adored you. Why did you love me? 
Because I was beautiful? You loved beauty so -a beautiful object in 
your palace of Gay Learning . . . But you loved me more than that. 
I knew it when your strong arms held me so tight I gasped for breath 
... I was still a child then . . . But honest . . . Was that perhaps the 
reason you loved me so . . / 

Marquis, tell me if you know 
Who’s that girl as white as snow? 

Sire, the Marquis quick replied, 

That girl is my blushing bride. 


My bride! 

The other night when he called her his wife, her blond Marquis had 
worn such an impenetrable look. I am no longer your wife, Joffrey. He 
claims me now. Your love is slipping from me like a barge drifting 
down a swift river. For ever, for ever ! How hard it is to say for ever . . . 
to allow that you are becoming but a ghost even for me. 

More luck than I, have you, Marquis, 

With a bride as fair as she. 

If you wish your love to show. 

You will let me have her now. 

Philippe had not come back to see her. He showed no more interest 
in her. Now that she had done her job, he had no further use for her. 
Why hope? She would never understand him. What did Ninon de 
Lenclos say about him? ‘He is the nobleman par excellence. He is in 
agony over questions of etiquette. He is afraid of having a mudstain on 
his silk stockings. But he is not afraid of death. And when he dies, he’ll 
be as lonely as a wolf, and won’t ask help from anybody.’ He belonged 
only to the King and. to himself. 

Since you are my monarch, Sire, 

I must grant your least desire; 

Were you but another man, 

I’d revenge your wicked plan. 

The King . . . the omnipotent King, strolling in his festive gardens. 
The elms glittering with frost like fairy trees. The plumed courtiers 
following him from grove to grove. The marble statues cloaked with 
snow. At the end of one walk the golden figures of Ceres and Flora 
and Pomona mirrored in the clear ice of a fountain. The King with his 
walking-stick in his gloved hand, the hand of a young man, yet capable 
of directing destiny, controlling life and death. 

Farewell, my life; farewell, my love; 

Farewell, my hopes of things above. 

Serve we must our lord, the King, 

Even to our long parting. 

Good heavens, weren’t those the verses Cantor had almost sung before 
the Queen the other day at Versailles? If it had not been for the Abbe 


de Lesdiguieres, what damage might he not have done! The Abbe is 
surely a help. I must give him another token of gratitude. 

The Queen has had a nosegay made 
Of the fairest lilies in the glade. 

The Marquise sniffed their fragrance sweet, 

And fell down dead at the Queen's feet. 

Poor Queen Marie-Therese ! She would be quite incapable of send- 
ing her rivals bouquets of poisoned flowers as Marie de Medicis once did 
to one of Henri's favourites. She could only weep and dab at her red 
nose. Poor Queen! 


Madame de Sevigne wrote Madame du Plessis-Belliere some news of the 

Today at Versailles the King opened the ball with Madame de 
Montespan. Mademoiselle de la Valliere was there, but did not dance. 
The Queen, who remained at Saint-Germain, was forgotten . . .' 

The traditional visits to the new mother, which were delayed until 
after the service of the Churching of Women, invested the Hotel de 
Beautreillis with unaccustomed splendour. The favour with which the 
King and Queen welcomed their new subject into this world encouraged 
all the agents of Paris to come to pay court to the lovely young 

Proudly Angelique displayed the casket of blue satin embroidered 
with fleurs-de-lis, which was the Queen's gift. It contained a length of 
cloth of silver and two of scarlet, a cape of blue taffeta and an ex- 
quisite layette of tiny Cambrai shirts, embroidered baby caps and 
flowered bibs. The King had sent two candy-dishes of silver-gilt and 
precious stones, filled with Jordan almonds. 

Monsieur de Gesvres, the High Chamberlain himself, delivered the 
presents of their Majesties to the young mother, as well as their good 
wishes. These attentions from the royal family, flattering as they were, 
were quite according to protocol; the wife of a Marshal of France was 
entitled to them. 

But it was all that was needed to spread, like a flame in a hayrick, 


the rumour that Madame du Plessis-Belliere held the King's heart in 
her hands. Wicked tongues even went so far as to whisper that in the 
veins of the plump little doll enthroned on his crimson velvet cushion 
ran the blood of Henri IV. 

Angelique disregarded these allusions, and shrugged her shoulders. 
Foolish people, but bothersome none die less ! Her bedroom was never 
free of them, and she received from her bedside like a bluestocking. 
Many faces she had almost forgotten turned up there. Her sister 
Hortense, the wife of a procurator, for instance, turned up with her 
whole brood. She was rising daily in the ranks of the upper middle class, 
and she could not have missed the opportunity to acknowledge a 
relative so much in the limelight as her sister the Marquise du Plessis- 

Madame Scarron came too. By chance Angelique was alone, and so 
they chatted freely. The young widow was pleasant company. Always 
even-tempered, she seemed above complaining or sulking. She was 
neither resentful of others nor hard on them. Angelique was surprised 
not to find in her the warm trusting friendship that she got from 
Ninon de Lenclos. 

Fran^oise, she thought, is at the bottom of the heap because she 
will not give up either her virtue or her dignity in her struggle for 
existence. Frugal to a fault, she never spent a penny she did not have to. 
Cautious, she never got into a situation she could not get out of. In 
spite of her poverty and her good looks, she had no debts, no lovers. She 
relentlessly persisted in presenting petition after petition to the King, 
for to ask of the King is not to beg, but merely to demand from 
the government not only one's livelihood but also one's due place 
in life. Yet none of her petitions had ever been granted, largely 
because she was so poor. If one has a little money, one can usually get 

T don't like to set myself up as an example,' Fran^oise said to 
Angelique, ‘but just keep in mind that I have presented either myself or 
through the agency of some well-situated friend over eighteen hundred 
petitions to the King.’ 

‘You don’t mean it!' 

‘And except for a few meagre benefices which were given me just a 
short while ago, I have got nothing for my pains. But I'm not giving 
up. The day will come when I can do something honest and useful for 
His Majesty or for some noble family, and it will be worthy of its 
price - possibly only because such a thing is so unusual.' 

‘Are you sure that is the right way to go about it? I have heard His 


Majesty complain that the memorandums of Madame Scarron litter 
his offices like leaves in autumn, and that you are well on your way to 
becoming as permanent a fixture as the tapestries on the walls of Saint- 
Germain or Versailles.’ 

Her remark did not alter Francoise’s composure. ‘That’s not bad 
news. Although the King might be the last one to admit it, nothing 
pleases him more than persistence. If you want to succeed you must 
attract the sovereign’s attention, that’s certain. So I am certain I will 
get what I want.’ 

‘Which is?’ 


There was a fine light in her eyes, but she continued in her well- 
modulated voice: ‘You remember the ridiculous prophecies that old 
sorceress Malvoisin made us? What all three of us were going to be 
some day - Athenais de Montespan, you and I? Well, I don’t put any 
stock whatever in what Malvoisin said. Any inspiration she gets comes 
out of a jug of wine. The prediction I do keep thinking of was made to 
me at Versailles three years ago by a young workman. You know, simple 
people who work with their hands, whose minds are uncluttered with all 
the claptrap of sophisticated living, sometimes have second sight. This 
fellow was an apprentice mason. He stammered and he had a club foot. 
One day when I was walking past the sheds around the palace, where His 
Majesty was having some new additions made, as usual, this boy left his 
work and came over to me, with all kinds of bows and flourishes. His 
fellow workers did not laugh, because they knew he could see into the 
future. His face lit up and he hailed me as “the first lady of the 
kingdom”. Then he went on to say that the very spot on which we were 
standing would be covered by a palace far larger and grander than 
anything we have now, and he could see all the courtiers doffing their 
hats and bowing to me as I moved through it. Whenever I get dis- 
couraged I think of that, and then I go back again to Versailles, where 
after all my destiny is supposed to lie.’ 

She was smiling, but her dark eyes were lit with an inner fire. 

Coming from another the story would have made Angelique smile, 
but being Madame Scarron’s it made a deep impression on her. She saw 
her now in her true light - grandly ambitious and commandingly con- 
ceited. Her simple, obsequious exterior concealed a towering pride and 

Far from increasing her dislike of Madame Scarron, this conversa- 
tion with her made it seem quite advantageous for Angelique to cultivate 
her friendship. 

‘Tell me,' Angelique said, ‘since you can shed so much light on so 
many matters, I have no idea how many obstacles I will encounter at 
Court, but I have long had a suspicion that my husband is intriguing 
against me . . / 

Tour husband is a babe in the woods. He knows what is going on, 
for he has been at Court so long, but he has no intention of inter- 
fering. For one thing, you are too beautiful/ 

‘But how can that do me any harm? Whom would it antagonise? 
There are more beautiful women there than I, Fran^oise. Don't flatter 
me so foolishly/ 

‘It is because you are too . . . too different/ 

‘As a matter of fact/ said Angelique almost to herself, ‘that's what 
the King himself told me.' 

‘You see! Not only are you one of the most beautiful women at 
Court, but you have a way of setting yourself off. From the moment you 
open your mouth you can have anyone eating out of your hand because 
you are charming and amusing. And besides, you have that one thing 
that so many other beauties would die for but never get.' 

‘What is that?' 

‘A soul,' said Madame Scarron resignedly. 

The light had gone out of her eyes. She stared at her pretty hands 
that hard work had coarsened in spite of all the pains she took with 
them. ‘And so/ she said with a hopeless sigh, ‘how can you help . , . 
making enemies as soon as you put in an appearance?' She burst into 

‘Fran^oise,' Angelique entreated, ‘don't tell me you are crying just on 
account of me and my “soul''.' 

‘No, I'm not, really. Only because I was thinking of my own fate. 
When a woman is beautiful and has a soul, how can she ever fail to get 
what she wants? That's the trouble. I have missed so much because I 
haven't that.' 

The remark served to convince Angelique that Madame Scarron 
would never be one of her enemies and that she was vulnerable too, 
even at the end of her rope. Perhaps the King's remark about her had 
struck home more than she cared to show. Angelique was sorry she had 
repeated it, for the widow had obviously gone hungry a long time. She 
would have rung for a snack, but she was afraid she might hurt 
Fran^oise’s feelings. 

‘Frangoise/ she said, ‘dry your tears. Think of your apprentice's 
prediction. It's not a liability, as you seem to think, but a trump card 
that will win you more than anyone else. You are able, and you have 


already got important and devoted advocates. Isn’t Madame d’Aumont 
one of your patronesses?’ 

‘And so are Madame de Richelieu and Madame de Lamoignan.’ 
Madame Scarron had by now recovered her composure. ‘I have been 
going to their salons regularly for three years now/ 

‘Rather numbing affairs, aren’t they?’ said Angelique. ‘They bore me 
to death/ 

‘Maybe so, but you can get ahead there in due time. That’s your one 
mistake, Angelique, and it will get you into trouble. Mademoiselle de la 
Valliere made the same one and now she’s on the way out. So long as 
you frequent the Court you cannot be neutral. You must decide for one 
camp or the other. You don’t belong to the Queen’s party or Madame’s 
or the Princes’. You have made no choice between the important 
people and the lightweights, or between the butterflies and the single- 

‘The single-minded? How much do you think they matter?’ 

1 mean the truly religious. They matter a great deal, not perhaps in 
the sight of God, whose true nature we seek to find in our prayer- 
books, but in the eyes of Justice which hands down the verdicts/ 

1 don’t know what you mean/ 

‘Doesn’t Evil wear its most sinister mask at Court? The Lord God of 
Hosts must put it to rout/ 

‘So, you are advising me to choose between God and the Devil/ 

‘Just about,’ said Madame Scarron gently. 

She rose and took up her cloak and the black fan she never opened 
because it was full of holes. She kissed Angelique on the forehead and 
stole silently away. 

‘What a time to talk about God and the Devil, Madame! Oh, such a 
terrible thing has happened!’ 

Barbe’s old red face peered through the bed-curtains. She had been 
there a while before, then had escorted Madame Scarron to the door, 
and returned. Her eyes were haggard. When her sighs and sobs had 
failed to attract her mistress’s attention, because Angelique was so lost in 
thought, Barbe decided to speak up. 

‘Madame, what a frightful calamity!’ 

‘Now what?’ 

‘Our little Charles-Henri has disappeared/ 

‘What Charles-Henri?’ 

Angelique had not yet got used to the name of her last-bom: Charles- 


Henri- Armand-Marie-Camille de Miremont du Plessis-Belliere. 

‘You mean the baby? Doesn't the nurse know where she put him?' 

‘The nurse is gone, too. And the cradle-rocker as well. And the diaper- 
girl. In fact, all of little Charles-Henri's staff/ 

Angelique threw back her covers and commenced to dress without 
speaking a word. 

‘Madame/ Barbe moaned, ‘are you out of your mind? A fine lady 
can't get out of bed just six days after giving birth/ 

‘Then why did you come after me? I supposed it was because you 
wanted me to do something. There's just one chance in a thousand 
that there's some truth in what you say, but I suspect you've acquired 
a certain fondness for the bottle. Ever since the Abbe took over the 
boys, you have had less and less to do, and that hasn't done you any 

Nevertheless the evidence was conclusive. The baby's rooms were 
deserted. His cradle was gone, and so was his chest of baby clothes and 
his first toys and even the flask of absinthe oil and musk which was used 
to massage his navel. 

Barbe had alerted the other servants. They were crowding outside 
the door in alarm. 

Angelique started her investigations. What was the last time anyone 
had seen the nurse and her assistants? That morning, when the diaper- 
girl had come to the kitchen for a ketde of hot water. The three had had 
a good dinner as usual, then there was no sign of them. It turned out, 
though, that while the servants were having a post-prandial siesta, the 
porter had gone off to play a game of skitdes with the stableboys in the 
courtyard behind the house. The entrance court had therefore been 
deserted for a good hour or so -more than enough time for three 
women to sneak out, one carrying the baby, another his cradle, another 
his layette. 

The porter swore the game of skitdes had not lasted more than fifteen 

‘So you were part of the plot too ! ' Angelique accused him. 

She vowed she would have him whipped, something she had never 
done before to any of her servants. 

As the minutes ticked by, she recalled frightful stories of children 
who had been kidnapped and burned. 

The nurse had been recommended to her by Madame de Sevigne, who 
said she was reliable and co-operative. But how could anyone trust that 
accursed breed of servants who keep one eye on the households they work 
in and the other on their own nefarious interests? 


In the meantime Flipot dashed in saying that he knew all about it. 
With the knack he had acquired as a former minion in the Court of 
Miracles, he had been quick in sniffing out the trail. Charles-Henri du 
Plessis-Belliere had quite obviously been moved bag and baggage to his 
father's house in the Rue Faubourg Saint- Antoine. 

The Marquis ordered all the coaches and horses moved there, didn't 
he? And kidnapped you one dark night and locked you up in a convent?' 

‘Damn Philippe!' 

She could not dissemble in front of her servants who five minutes 
before had seen her frantic anxiety. So she let her rage boil. To win 
them over, she told them that this was the chance they had been waiting 
for to give a sound thrashing to the whole insolent staff of the Marquis 
du Plessis which treated them as if they were delivery boys instead of 
having just as much right to the Plessis blue and buff livery which the 
King himself deferred to. 

She told each one of them, from the meanest scullion right up to the 
young Abbe, to arm himself with clubs and pikes and even swords, and 
march to the Faubourg Saint- Antoine. She herself would go along in a 
sedan chair. 

The squadron thundered on the oaken door of the H6tel du Plessis. 
The porter leaned out of the barred window of his lodge and tried to 
parley. He had strict orders from the Marquis not to open the gate for 
anyone - anyone at all, the whole day. 

‘Open up to your mistress,' roared “Swordthrust” Malbrant, brand- 
ishing two cannon fuses which by some miracle he had in his coat 
pockets, ‘or, by my reputation as a swordsman, I'll light these fuses 
right under your nose and blow your whole gate and your lodge, too, 
straight to hell.' 

Racan had already lit a long piece of tow. 

The terrified porter said that he would open the gate to Madame la 
Marquise on condition that all the rest stay outside. Angelique promised 
that there would be no immediate attack or battle, and he opened the 
gate just wide enough to let her and the Gilandon girls slip through. 

As soon as she was inside the house she had no difficulty locating 
the deserters. She struck the nurse, snatched up the infant, and was on 
her way out when La Violette loomed before her. The Marquis's son, 
he swore, would leave the house only over his dead body. 

Angelique railed at him in her Poitou dialect which he, being a 
native of the same region, understood perfecdy. 

The valet finally backed down, throwing himself on his knees at her 
feet and begging her with tears in his eyes to have pity on him. The 


Marquis had threatened him with the direst of punishments if he let 
the child go. One of the threats was that he would be discharged, and 
that he could not bear, for he had been with the Marquis for years and 
years. They had hunted their first squirrel together in the forest of 
Nieul, and he had followed him in all his campaigns. 

Nevertheless a lackey in blue and buff livery was already galloping 
along the road to Saint-Germain, hoping to reach the Marquis before 
his servants and his wife's cut one another's throats in Paris. 

The Marquis's confessor came to try to make the bereft mother listen 
to reason. Unsuccessful, he had the family's business manager, Molines, 
sent for. When Angelique saw his authoritative figure, straight as an 
arrow in spite of his white hairs, her vindictiveness subsided. 

Molines suggested they sit down together before the fireplace. He 
congratulated her on her beautiful child which he was overjoyed to 
see would carry on his father's line. 

‘But he wants to take him away from me.' 

‘It is his son, Madame, and -you must believe me -I have never 
seen a man of his station so ridiculously happy over having an 

‘You are always on his side,’ Angelique said, not unhumorously. ‘I 
well imagine how happy he is, probably because of all the suffering 
he has caused me. His meanness has gone beyond even what you told 

Still, she agreed to send home her servants and possess her soul in 
patience until her husband got back - on one condition, that Molines 
act as an impartial judge. 

At nightfall Philippe returned, his spurs jangling as always. He 
found Angelique and the manager still in a friendly conversation by the 

Little Charles-Henri was clasped tightly to her jealous breast, like the 
precious thing he was to her, suckling away greedily. The firelight shone 
on her round white neck. Philippe was so entranced with the sight 
that Molines had time to rise and take his leave saying how terribly 
upset Madame du Plessis had been at discovering her child gone. 
Didn't Monsieur du Plessis know that an infant had to be nursed by its 
mother? The baby’s health was not so robust yet as its appearance im- 
plied, and to deprive it of its mother’s milk would seriously endanger 
its very life. And Madame du Plessis was risking a quartan fever, 
which might cause her milk to dry up. 

No, Philippe knew none of these things - they were too far removed 
from his experience. His face showed his struggle between worry and 


disbelief. But Molines knew what he was talking about. He was a pater- 
familias himself and also a grandfather. 

The Marquis made one last attempt. ‘He is my son, Molines. I want 
him under my own roof.’ 

‘In that case, Monsieur le Marquis, Madame du Plessis will have to 
live here with him.’ 

Angelique and Philippe both shuddered at the thought. Neither said 
a word. Then they looked at each other like sullen playmates about to 
make up after a quarrel. 

T cannot leave my two other children/ Angelique said. 

They could stay here too/ said Molines. The h6tel is big enough/ 
Philippe did not deny it. 

Molines left, his mission accomplished. Philippe continued to pace the 
room, throwing a dark look at Angelique from tme to time. She gave 
all her attention to Charles-Henri. Finally Philippe drew up a footstool 
and sat down next to her. Angelique looked at him suspiciously. 

‘So/ said Philippe, ‘you can be afraid in spite of all your bold airs. 
Perhaps you wanted things to turn out this way. Well, here you are, 
right in the wolfs den. So why are you looking at me so suspiciously 
when I sit down next to you? Even a brute of a peasant likes to sit by 
the hearth and watch his wife suckle their first-born child/ 

That’s just it, Philippe. You may not be a peasant, but you are a 

‘I’m glad to see you haven’t lost all your zest for battle/ 

She turned her head toward him sweetly. His eyes followed the line 
of her swanlike throat to her snow-white breast to the sleeping infant. 

‘How could I ever dream you would play me such a dirty trick so soon, 
Philippe? You were so sweet to me the other day/ 

Philippe reacted as if she had insulted him. ‘You are wrong. I am never 
sweet. I just don’t like to see a thoroughbred mare miscarry, that/s all. 
It was my duty to help you. But my opinions about people and especially 
about women and their wiles have not changed a whit. Besides, I wonder 
how creatures so little above animals can still have so much pride. You 
were not so haughty the other day. And just like any other stubborn 
bitch you wanted your master’s hand to reassure you/ 

‘I don’t deny it. But your knowledge of feminine psychology is a little 
limited, Philippe. Just because you understand animals better than 
human beings, you can’t judge one by the other. To you a woman is 
some strange hybrid, somewhere between a bitch, a she-wolf, and a cow/ 
‘With a touch of serpent thrown in/ 

‘The dragon of the Apocalypse, in short/ 

They looked at each other and laughed. Philippe bit his lip to stop. 

‘The dragon of the Apocalypse/ he repeated, never taking his eyes 
off Angelique’s flesh glowing in the firelight. ‘My point of view is as 
good as anyone else’s/ he said after a moment. ‘It keeps me free of 
illusions. The other day at your bedside I remembered a bitch, the most 
ferocious of the whole pack, on the night I helped her drop a litter of 
seven pups. There was an almost human look in her eyes, and she yielded 
to me with a touching devotion. Two days later she chewed a kennel-boy 
to death just for coming near her puppies/ 

Suddenly he asked: ‘Is it true what I heard, that you had fuses set 
under the gatekeeper’s lodge?’ 


‘If he hadn’t given in, you would have blown him sky-high?’ 

‘Indeed I would!’ 

Philippe burst into laughter. ‘By the devil that made you, you do 
amuse me I You have every fault known to man, but no one could accuse 
you of being boring.’ He circled her throat with his hands. ‘Sometimes 
I wonder if there’s any other way out but to strangle you or . . / 

‘Or what?’ 

‘I’ll think about it/ he said, releasing her. ‘You haven’t won yet. For 
the moment, I have you in my power.’ 

Angelique took plenty of time to settle herself in her husband’s house 
with her children and their staff and the several servants of her own 
she wished to keep with her. Philippe’s hotel was gloomy and had none 
of the modem charm that hers had. But she arranged rooms for herself 
that turned out handsome and in the best of taste. La Violette told her 
the apartment she had chosen had formerly been the Dowager 
Marquise’s, but that Philippe had had it entirely redecorated only a few 
months before. 

Angelique was astonished to hear this, but she did not dare ask, 
Tor whom?’ 

A short time later an invitation from the King to a ball at Versailles 
caused her to leave her new home. For a great lady of the Court, 
endowed now with two offices, she had devoted enough time to family 
affairs. It was time for her to take up again her duties to the world. That 
was what Philippe was doing. She saw him now less than when she was 
staying at Court. Realising there would be no more evenings at the 
hearthside, she set out once more for Versailles. 

On the evening of the ball she had a terrible time finding a place 
where she could change her clothes. This was the perpetual affliction of 


the Court ladies when they stayed at Versailles, at least for those who 
were willing to sacrifice to modesty. For others who did not object to 
prurient peeps it was easy. 

Angelique took refuge in a little antechamber belonging to the 
Queen's apartments. She and Madame du Roure helped each other 
dress, for their maids were housed the lord knew where. There were 
innumerable intruders - courtiers who paid them compliments as they 
passed through, and some who offered to help them. 

‘Let us alone/ Madame du Roure kept squeaking like a guinea-hen, 
‘or you’ll make us late, and you know how the King hates that.’ Then 
she had to run off to find some pins. 

Angelique was taking advantage of her absence to pull on her silk 
stockings when a muscular arm seized her around her waist and tumbled 
her, her skirts flying, on a litde sofa. A greedy mouth explored her 
throat. She let out a scream, and fought desperately to free herself, and 
as soon as she did gave her assailant two resounding slaps. 

She was winding up for a third blow when she found herself staring 
at the King. Her arm froze in its outstretched position. 

‘I never . . . I . . . did not think it was you/ she stammered. 

‘I did not think it was you either/ he said good-humouredly, but 
still rubbing his smarting cheek. ‘Nor that you had such lovely legs. 
Why did you show them if it embarrasses you for people to see them?’ 

‘I can’t put on my stockings without exposing my legs.’ 

‘Then why do you choose to put on your stockings in the Queen’s ante- 
chamber if not to expose your legs?’ 

‘Because I couldn’t find another spot to do it in.’ 

‘Are you implying that Versailles is not big enough to accommodate 
your precious person?’ 

‘Perhaps I am. It’s just like a great big theatre without any wings. 
Precious or not, my person has to stay in centre stage all the time.’ 

‘So that’s your excuse for your unpardonable behaviour?’ 

‘And so that’s your excuse for your no less unpardonable behaviour?’ 

Angelique tried to rearrange her skirts. She was angry, but a glance 
at the troubled face of the King restored her sense of humour. She 
smiled broadly, and the King's features relaxed. 

‘Little toy, I am a fool.’ 

‘Well, I am too quick/ 

‘Yes, you are a wildflower. Believe me, if I had recognised you, I 
would never have behaved in such a way. But when I came in and saw 
your blond curls and -my word! - such handsome legs . . .’ 

Angelique gave him a sidelong look, pursing her lips as if to show 


that she was not too displeased by his attentions, provided he did not 
renew them. Even a King might have felt foolish under such a look. 

‘Will you forgive me?’ 

She held out her hand, less to be coquettish than to indicate that 
their tiff was over and forgotten. The King kissed it. He said she was a 
wonderful woman. 

A litde later, as she was crossing the marble courtyard, she encoun- 
tered a guard who seemed to be looking for someone. He accosted 
her: ‘I have been instructed by the High Chamberlain to tell you that 
an apartment has been reserved for you in the wing of the royal princes. 
May I escort you there, Madame?’ 

‘I? You must be wrong, my good man/ 

He consulted a notebook. ‘Madame du Plessis-Belliere? That is your 
name? I thought I recognised you/ 

‘That is correct/ 

In a daze she followed the guardsman through the royal apartments 
and those of the highest princes of the blood royal. At the end of the 
right wing one of the quartermasters had just finished writing in chalk 
on a little door: ‘Reserved for Madame du Plessis-Belliere/ 

Angelique was so dazzled with joy she could have fallen on the 
neck of the quartermaster and the guard. She gave them several gold 
pieces. ‘Drink my health with that/ 

‘We’ll wish you the best of luck and lots of fun/ they said winking 
at her knowingly. 

She asked them to tell her footman and maids to bring her ward- 
robe and bedclothes. Then with childish glee she took possession of her 
apartment, which consisted of two rooms and a retreat. 

As she sat waiting, Angelique meditated with sheer delight on what 
befuddled sensations can inspire the favour of a monarch. Then she 
stepped out into the hallway once more to see the inscription: ‘Reserved 
for Madame du Plessis-Belliere/ 

‘So you got it at last, the wonderful “Reserved for”!’ 

‘I hear the gentlemen in blue have chalked up your “Reserved for”!’ 

Everyone had heard about it. No sooner did she appear in the ball- 
room than all eyes were fastened on her in admiration and envy. She 
was radiant until the arrival of the Queen’s procession somewhat 
dampened her enthusiasm. 

As she passed, the Queen bowed graciously to those she recognised, 
but she pretended not to see the Marquise du Plessis-Belliere, and 


stared at her frigidly. Angelique's neighbours did not fail to notice 

‘Her Majesty gave you a sour look/ sneered the Marquise de Roque- 
laure. ‘Her hopes were reviving when she saw Mademoiselle de la 
Valliere slipping from grace, but now she has a new rival, and a more 
dazzling one/ 


‘You, my dear/ 

1? How silly!' 

She had seen in the King's gesture only a wish to be forgiven and 
a desire to remedy the situation she had complained about. The 
courtiers saw in it a new proof of his love for her. 

Angelique entered the ballroom. 

Bril li antly coloured tapestries masked all its walls, and it blazed with 
the light of the thirty-six chandeliers that hung from its vaulted ceiling. 
The dancers were forming into rows facing each other, the ladies on the 
right, the lords on the left. The King and Queen sat in a box apart. At 
the far end of the room on a stage hung with garlands of gold leaves the 
musicians were tuning up under Lully's direction. 

The Queen is weeping now because of Madame du Plessis-Belliere/ 
croaked a voice. They say the King is already having apartments 
readied for his new mistress. Beware, Marquise!' 

Angelique had no need to turn around to recognise the source of the 
voice which seemed to issue from the floor. 

‘Don't put any faith in that gossip, litde Sir Barcarole. The King is 
not lusting after me- no more than after any other woman of his 

‘Well, still beware. Marquise. Bad luck is in store for you/ 

‘What do you know about it?' 

‘Nothing really. Just that Madame de Montespan and Madame du 
Roure went to see Malvoisin to find some way of poisoning La Valliere. 
She told them to use magic to turn the King's affections, and already 
Mariette, her Black Mass priest, has dropped some powders in the royal 

‘Be still!' she said in horror. 

‘Beware of those girls. The day they get to the top of the ladder is 
the day you'll fall to the bottom.' 

The violins sang out the first bars of the gay dance rhythms. The 
King rose and after bowing to the Queen, opened the ball with Madame 
de Montespan. 

Angelique moved forward to take her place in the line. 


Behind a tapestry the little cockscombed gnome cackled with 


The King was so intrigued with the idea of going to war that he had a 
camp set up in the game-preserve of Saint-Germain. The pavilions 
were quite handsome. Lauzun’s-he had been restored to favour -had 
three rooms hung in crimson silk, in which he gave a reception for the 
King followed by a great banquet. 

At Fontainebleau, where the Court went next, the troops were 
garrisoned, and the ladies could enjoy the spectacle of military reviews 
at which the King liked to show off the fine appearance and splendid 
discipline of his troops. 

La Violette was polishing his master's steel corselet, more of a decora- 
tion than a necessity, which the Marshal wore under his lace collar. 
His tent had cost 2,000 livres, and he required five mules to carry all 
his baggage. Saddle horses had been provided. The musketeers of his 
personal regiment were equipped with chamois coats as thick as a silver 
coin, with gilded belts and trousers of buckskin trimmed with gold braid. 

There was a warlike spirit everywhere. The rabble shouted as they 
passed along the banks of the Seine: ‘Hey, King, when are you going to 
give us a real war?' They reached the ears of the young sovereign who 
inhaled the call to glory in every wind. For war alone brings true glory. 
A triumph of arms is always necessary to complete a monarch’s 

The war came as an aftermath to seven years of peace. Its resplendent 
spirit evoked in everyone, from King to princes to nobility to vagabonds, 
the eternal thirst of the human race for the epic game of conquest. 
Their spirits yearned for adventure. (The middle classes, the artisans 
and the peasants were not consulted, lest they show some disinclination.) 
For the nation that undertakes it, war promises victory, riches, vain 
dreams of freeing itself from unbearable servitude. They had confidence 
in their King. They had no love for the Spanish or the English or the 
Dutch or the Swedes or the princes of the Empire. 

It seemed the psychological time to prove to Europe that France 
was the greatest nation in the world and was no longer going to take but 
give orders. 

There was no good excuse for the war, but Louis XIV charged his 
apologists with finding one in either present or past politics. After con- 


siderable research they discovered that Queen Marie-Therese, daughter 
of Philip of Spain by his first marriage had a right of inheritance to 
Flanders to the exclusion of Charles II, Philip’s son by his second 

Spain countered that this right was founded only upon a purely 
local law of the Netherlands which excluded children of a second 
marriage from an inheritance in favour of children of a first one. As the 
laws of Spain were superior to those of any of its provinces, this local 
regulation could not obtain. Spain also pointed out that by her marriage 
to the King of France, Marie-Therese had forfeited all right of inheri- 
tance to the lands of Spain. 

France answered that since Spain had not yet paid the five hundred 
thousand ecus which it owed the King of France under the Treaty of the 
Pyrenees as a dowry for Marie-Therese, this default annulled all pre- 
ceding promises. 

Spain replied that the dowry had not been paid because the dowry 
stipulated for the daughter of Henri IV when she became Queen of 
Spain in 1621 had not been fully paid by France. 

France put a stop to the researches of the historians right then and 
there on the principle that the best memory in politics is a short one. 

The army departed to conquer Flanders, and the Court set out behind 
it on a pleasure jaunt. 

It was spring, a rainy spring to be sure, but still the right season for 
hatching all projects, including bellicose ones. As many coaches and 
carriages followed the army as the troops had cannons and baggage 

Louis XIV wanted the Queen, as heiress to the cities of Picardy, to be 
acclaimed as sovereign in each conquered town. He also wanted thus 
to dazzle the population which had been accustomed for more than a 
century to the autocratic and colourless Spanish rule. Furthermore, he 
wanted to thrust at the Dutch industries whose merchant marine was 
roaming the seas as far as Sumatra and Java, whereas the French mer- 
chant fleet, reduced to practically nothing, was being far outclassed. In 
order to give the French ship-chandlers time to outfit vessels, Holland 
had to be crushed. But Louis XIV did not make public this ulterior 
purpose. It was a secret between him and Colbert. 

Under torrential rains the coaches, the carriages and the spare horses 
advanced over roads that the infantry, the artillery and the cavalry had 
previously churned into veritable seas of mud. 


Angelique was sharing a coach with Mademoiselle de Montpensier, 
whose friendship she had enjoyed ever since Lauzun was released from 
the Bastille. At a crosroad they were stopped by a coach that had just 
turned over. They were told it belonged to one of the Queers ladies. 
The princess caught sight of Madame de Montespan on the road-bank 
and waved to her. 

‘Come along with us. There’s room . 9 

Athenais lifted her skirts and jumped from puddle to puddle to reach 
their coach into which she tumbled in gales of laughter. 

T have never seen anything so funny , 9 she said, ‘as Lauzun carrying 
his hair in his hat. The King kept him riding outside for two hours, and 
Lauzun 9 s wig got so sopping wet he finally had to take it off/ 

‘But that 9 s terrible , 9 exclaimed the Grande Mademoiselle. ‘He’ll catch 
cold . 9 

She ordered the coachman to whip up the horses. Around the next 
bend they caught up with the King’s coach. There indeed was Lauzun 
on horseback, dripping wet, and looking as bedraggled as a moulting 
sparrow. The Grande Mademoiselle came to his aid in a pathetic 

‘Cousin, haven’t you any feelings at all? You are letting this unhappy 
gentleman risk an ague. If you aren’t touched by pity, then at least take 
into consideration how much you would lose in the person of this loyal 
servant of yours . 9 

The King did not even turn his head, but kept staring before him 
through his gold and ebony spyglass. 

Angelique looked about them. They were on a slight rise that per- 
mitted a view of the black, steaming plain of Picardy. Under the low- 
hanging clouds rose the battlements of a little town that seemed as 
drowned by the rain as if it lay on the bed of a brook. 

French earthworks surrounded it. A second trench outside the first 
was just being finished. In the rear the cannon fire intermittently cast 
a rosy glow over the landscape. The noise was deafening. The Grande 
Mademoiselle covered her ears with her hands as she resumed her pleas. 

Finally the King put down his spyglass. ‘Cousin , 9 he said deliberately, 
‘you are very eloquent, but you always choose the wrong moment for 
your harangues. I think the garrison is about to surrender . 9 

He transmitted to Lauzun the order to cease fire. The Marquis 
galloped off. 

In fact, they could already make out some activity at the gate of the 

‘I see the white flag , 9 shouted the Grande Mademoiselle, clapping her 


hands. ‘In only three days, Sire 1 You've captured the town in only three 
days! Oh, how magnificent war is!' 

When they halted that evening in the conquered town, and while the 
shouts of the townspeople still rang out around the hotel where the 
Queen was lodged, Lauzun searched out Mademoiselle to acknowledge 
her intervention on his behalf. The Grande Mademoiselle smiled. A 
blush suffused her pale complexion. She excused herself from the card 
table where she was playing with the Queen, and asking Angelique to 
take her place, drew Lauzun into the recess of a window. 

Her face shone as she drank in his words. Seen by the light of a single 
candelabrum on a table near them, she seemed almost young and 

‘My word, but she's lovesick!' thought Angelique. 

Lauzun had on his Don Juan expression, but he was careful to keep 
his distance. Damn Peguilin, that Gascon ! Into what romantic booby- 
trap was he misdirecting the trusting heart of this granddaughter of 
Henri IV? 

The room was full but it was hushed. There were four tables of cards. 
The monotonous bets of the gamesters and the clink of the ecus were 
the only sounds that disturbed the quiet tryst that was going on and on 
and on. 

The Queen for once looked happy. She was pleased to be able to add 
one city more to the jewels of her crown, but there were more per- 
sonal gratifications involved. Mademoiselle de la Valliere was not on the 
expedition. Before setting out on his campaign Louis XIV, in a public 
law enacted by his Parliament, had made a gift to his mistress of the 
duchy of Vaujoux in Touraine and also of the barony of Saint- 
Christophe, two estates of equal value both for their revenues and for 
the number of their tenants. He had also acknowledged his child by her, 
little Marie- Anne, who henceforth would be known as Mademoiselle de 

These gestures of the King's neither deceived nor interested anyone. 
It was the usual parting gift, but the Queen saw in it a return to 
propriety, a sort of liquidation of all his past errors. The King heaped 
attention upon her. Whenever they entered a city, she rode by his side, 
sharing with him the responsibilities as well as the hopes of the cam- 
paign. But whenever her eye lit on the Marquise du Plessis-Belliere, her 
heart began to ache with a new anxiety, for she had been told that the 
King was infatuated with her and that he had insisted she join his 

She was indeed a very beautiful woman with something serious about 


her, and attitudes that were at once spontaneous and calculated. Marie- 
Therese deplored the lurking suspicion she had of her, for she liked the 
Marquise and would have liked to make her her confidante. But Solignac 
said she was an immoral woman, lacking in piety. And Madame de 
Montespan accused her of having a skin disease caught in the slums she 
liked to frequent. How could one trust appearances? She seemed so 
healthy and fresh, and her children were so handsome. How trying it 
would be if the King made her his mistress ! And what grief it would 
cause her! Could the heavy heart of a Queen find no balm? 

Angelique knew how painful her presence was to the Queen and took 
advantage of her first opportunity to withdraw. 

The house which had been put at the disposition of the sovereigns 
by the burgomaster was small and crowded. The nobles of the first rank 
and the King's suite were literally jammed into it, while the rest of the 
Court took quarters among the townspeople. The welcome the populace 
gave the French had forestalled violence and pillage. There was nothing 
to steal because everything was freely given. The muffled sound of songs 
and laughter penetrated even into the dimly lit hotel which still smelled 
of the tourte picarde , a mammoth confection of pears covered with 
custard, that three of the town women had brought on a silver platter. 

Threading her way through the stacks of trunks and other baggage, 
Angelique found the staircase. The room she had chosen to share with 
Madame de Montespan was on her right, the King's and Queen's on the 

A little shadow appeared in the dim flicker of the nightlight and took 
the shape of a black mask in which two white eyes presently gleamed 
at her. 

‘No, ma'am, don't go in.' 

Angelique recognised the little negro she had given Madame de 

‘Hello, Naaman. Let me by,' 

‘No, ma'am.’ 

‘What's the matter?' 

‘Som’un's dere.' 

She could just barely hear a tender murmuring. She guessed that 
some romance was afoot. 

‘All right, I'll go away.' 

The page's white teeth glistened in a grin framed in ebony. The 
Kink, madame. The Kink. Shhh!’ 

Angelique went down the staircase ruminatively. The King! And 
Madame de Montespan ! 


The next day everyone left for Amiens. 

Angelique dressed early and went to the Queen's apartments, as was 
her duty. At the entrance Mademoiselle de Montpensier was clucking 

‘Oh, what a state Her Majesty is in! It's a great pity, a great pity 1' 

The Queen was indeed in tears, at the end of her tether, as she said. 
Madame de Montausier was comforting her as she sobbed and groaned, 
and Madame de Montespan kept repeating in a voice that got louder 
and louder how completely understandable Her Majesty's sorrow was. 
The news was that Mademoiselle de la Valliere had just rejoined the 
army; after driving all night, she had arrived at daybreak and had come 
to pay her respects to the Queen. 

‘What effrontery!' Madame de Montespan kept exclaiming. ‘May 
God keep me from ever being the King's mistress ! If such a thing ever 
happened to me, I would never be so inconsiderate as to appear before 
the Queen!' 

What was the meaning of this return? Had the King demanded the 
presence of his favourite? 

Then everyone went to church where the Court was to hear Mass 
before proceeding. 

Marie-Therese ascended the stand reserved for the royal party. The 
Duchesse de la Valliere was already there. The Queen did not look at 
her. The favourite left the platform. Then she presented herself before 
the Queen once more as Marie-Therese was entering her coach. The 
Queen did not speak to her, so bitter was her disillusionment. She 
could no longer ignore the situation as, for better or worse, she had 
done while the relationship between her husband and this woman was 
still official. In her rage she forbade anyone even to bring her food, and 
she ordered the officers of her escort to allow no one to get ahead of 
her coach for fear that Mademoiselle de la Valliere might rejoin the 
King before she herself did. 

Towards evening the long line of jolting coaches caught up with the 
army on a little rise. Mademoiselle de la Valliere was aware that the 
King was below. With a courage bom of despair she ordered her coach 
to dash across the open fields at top speed. 

When the Queen saw this, her anger was uncontrollable. She wanted 
to order her guardsmen to follow the coach and stop it, but everyone 
kept begging her not to, and to calm herself. The arrival of the King 
himself, who had got there before the Queen by following a different 
road, resolved this half-pathetic, half -farcical crisis. 

He was on horseback and spattered with mud from top to toe, but 

in an excellent humour. As he dismounted he apologised for not enter- 
ing the Queen's coach because of his dirty clothes, but after he had 
talked to her a while through the door he stopped smiling. 

The rumour was passed along that the King had not desired and had 
certainly not commanded the arrival of Mademoiselle de la Valliere. 
What had she heard to cause such unusual impetuousness? She had 
always been such a patient, shy sort. What suspicions had inspired her? 
Or what facts? 

Alone at Versailles, covered by her new dignities and surrounded by 
her new wealth, she had suddenly realised she had been abandoned. At 
her wits' end she had ordered her coach and set off at a gallop towards 
the north in direct disobedience to the King. Anything rather than be 
tortured with thoughts that his heart had changed and that the man 
she loved might be already in the arms of another. 

She did not put in an appearance at the dinner that followed at the 
halt. It was a wretched cantonment, a town containing no more than 
four stone houses, the rest being mud hovels. 

Accompanied by the Gilandon girls and her three maids, Ang&ique 
was searching for a lodging when she ran into Mademoiselle de Mont- 
pensier, who was in the same shelterless condition. 

"Well, we are certainly off to the wars, aren't we?' she said. ‘Madame 
de Montausier couldn't find anything but a pile of straw in an out- 
house for a bed, and the Queen's ladies are stowed away in a pile of 
wheat in a loft. As for me, I’ll be lucky if I can find an ash-heap.' 

Angelique finally found a hay barn. She hoisted herself up a ladder 
to the loft, where she could sleep comfortably, while her companions 
stayed below in the bin. A big lantern hanging from the joists shed a 
dull red glow over the scene -just enough light for Angelique to 
perceive taking shape like a black ghost the jet features, the white eye- 
balls and the crimson and apple-green turban of the little negro 

‘What are you doing there, you imp of Satan?’ 

‘I waiting Ma'am Montespan. Watch her bed for she. She sleep here 

At that moment the lovely face of the Marquise came into view over 
the top rung of the ladder. 

‘What a good idea, Angelique, to share my “green room”, as our brave 
soldiers call a billet like this ! We can play piquet if we can’t get to 
sleep.' She fell into the hay, stretched and yawned with all the sensuous 
relaxation of a cat. ‘Oh, how soft it is! What a marvellous bed! It's 
like when I was a child back in Poitou.' 


‘That's just what I was thinking,' said Angelique. 

‘There was a haybarn right near our dovecote. My litde lover used to 
meet me there. He was a shepherd boy, only ten years old. We loved to 
listen to the pigeons cooing as we held hands.' 

She stripped off her tight bodice. Angelique followed her example. 
Then they peeled off their outer skirts, rolled off their stockings, and 
burrowed into the hay, ecstatically rediscovering sensations they had 
long since forgotten. 

‘From shepherd boy to King,' whispered Athenais. ‘What do you 
thi nk of my future now, darling?’ She propped herself up on one elbow. 
The ruddy light of the lantern deepened the glow of her cheeks and 
warmed the alabaster of her neck and shoulders. She giggled as if she 
were tipsy. ‘To be loved by a King! How intoxicating!' 

‘Suddenly you seem very sure of that love. A while ago, you weren’t 
so sure.' 

‘Ah, but now I have proof ! I need never doubt again . . . Last night 
he came to me ... I knew he would come sometime on this trip. The 
way he left La Valliere at Versailles showed the way he was feeling, 
didn't it? He gave her a few trinkets as a parting gift.’ 

‘Trinkets? A duchy and a peerage? A barony !’ 

‘Pooh ! They might seem tremendous to her, and she probably thinks 
she's at the peak of her power. That's why she thought she had the right 
to rejoin the Court. Ha-ha, she's a bad loser. ... I'll never settle for 
baubles like those. He can't treat me like some opera dancer. I am a 

‘Athenais, you frighten me talking this confidently. Have you really 
become the King's mistress?' 

‘Yes, I have. His mistress ! Oh, Angelique, what fun it is to know the 
power you have over a man like him! To see him tremble and grow 
pale ... to hear his entreaties . . . And him so self-controlled, so 
solemn, so majestic, even terrifying sometimes ... It's true what they 
say about him, when he makes love he is a wild man. There's nothing 
subtle about him then. He's greedy with lust, but I can satisfy him.' 

She laughed with mad delight, rolling her blond head back and forth 
in the hay and writhing her arms with such sensual abandon, as if she 
were reliving an all too recent moment of passion, that Angelique could 
hardly bear it. 

That's just fine,’ she said sarcastically. ‘Everyone will want to know 
who the King's new mistress is, and now I won't have to be bothered 
listening to all their silly suspicions.' 

Madame de Montespan sat up abruptly. ‘Oh no, darling, not that. You 


must not breathe a word of it. We are depending on your discretion. 
The time hasn't come yet to acknowledge my position openly. That 
would just complicate everything. Please oblige us by doing what we 
expect of you.’ 

'And what is that? And who is "we"?' 

‘Why . . . the King and I.' 

‘Do you mean to say that you - the King and you - hope the rumour 
will spread that he is in love with me in order to throw everyone off your 

Under their long lashes Athenais's dark blue eyes surveyed Angelique 
with an evil glint. ‘Why, of course. You see, that would help us out 
I am in a delicate situation. On the one hand I am Lady-in-waiting to 
the Queen, and on the other an intimate friend of Mademoiselle de la 
Valliere. The King's attentions would ruin my reputation. There has 
to be some sort of red herring. I don't know why they've begun talking 
about you, but the King has certainly helped the gossip by giving you 
so many posts. And the Queen has been very cool to you. Poor Louise 
can burst into tears just at the mere mention of your name. No one 
thinks about me any more. They've lost the scent. I know you have 
enough good sense to have seen this right from the beginning. The 
King is much obliged to you. So don't say anything, will you? Do you 

Angelique did not answer. She picked up a wisp of hay and began 
chewing on it nervously. Inwardly she felt hurt, and as if she had been 
more gullible than she liked to let herself be. And here she was sup- 
posed to know how to outwit the trickiest business men and traders in 
the kingdom ! Yet when it came to worldly intrigues like this she was 
still basically a naive, countrified peasant girl. 

‘Why should you mind?‘ Madame de Montespan continued, all sweet- 
ness. ‘It's quite flattering for you, and you have already got rewards and 
a certain glory. Do you think you've been misled? Hardly. I can't 
imagine you ever took that little farce seriously. In the first place, you 
love your husband, or so it seems. How funny! He is not very ardent, 
but he is handsome, and they say he's very susceptible to flattery . . .' 

‘Would you like to play cards?' Angelique asked tonelessly. 

Td be glad to, I have a pack in my bag. NaamanI' 

The little negro handed her her travelling kit. They played several 
hands without taking much interest in the game. Angelique lost out of 
absent-mindedness, and this did not improve her humour. Madame de 
Montespan dropped, off to sleep at last, with a smile on her lips. 

Angelique was not in a smiling mood. She kept biting at a hang- 


nail as her vexation increased, and as the night wore on she conceived 
more and more plans for revenge. By morning the name of Madame 
de Montespan would be on everyone’s lips. She had been very unwise 
to think Angelique would fall for her insincerity. 

Athenais had found an exquisite pleasure in revealing her triumph 
and the part she had unwittingly assigned her. Sure of the King’s 
support and of her control over him, she had allowed herself the 
enjoyment of tearing to pieces a woman of whom she had long been 
jealous but whom she treated well for opportunistic reasons. Now she 
had no further need of her or of her money. She could humiliate her 
and make her pay through the nose for the success her beauty and 
wealth had won for her. 

Idiot!’ thought Angelique, more exasperated than ever at herself. 
She wrapped herself in her cloak and stole down the ladder, leaving 
Madame de Montespan sound asleep and resting as lighdy on the hay - 
and as unclothed - as a goddess on a cloud. 

Outside, the east was brightening, and a few drops of rain were fall- 
ing. From the direction of the reddening horizon drifted the sound of 
fifes and drums as the regiments broke camp. 

Angelique trudged through the sticky mud to the house where the 
Queen was lodged and where she knew she would find Mademoiselle de 
Montpensier. In the entryway she spied Mademoiselle de la Valliere 
shivering on a bench and looking abjecdy wretched. Her young sister- 
in-law and two or three maids were with her, all dreary and red-eyed 
from sleeplessness. They all looked so forlorn that they touched her 
heart and she stopped in spite of herself. 

‘What are you doing there, Madame? You’ll catch your death of 

Louise de la Valliere raised her blue eyes, too big for her waxen face, 
and shuddered as if she had been roused from a trance. 

‘Where is the King?’ she said. ‘I want to see him. I can’t leave here 
without seeing him. WHiere is he? Please tell me.’ 

‘I do not know, Madame.’ 

‘You do know. I am certain of it. You know . . .’ 

Out of pity Angelique took into her own the two thin, cold hands the 
Duchesse held out to her. T swear I do not know. I have not seen the 
King since ... I don’t know when. And I can assure you he hardly 
cares a rap about me. It’s sheer madness for you to stay out here on 
such a cold night.’ 

That’s what I keep telling her,’ groaned the sister-in-law. ‘She’s 
exhausted, and so am I, but she will not give in.’ 


'Haven’t you a room in the village?’ 

‘Yes, but she wants to wait for the King.’ 

‘Stop being so foolish.’ Angelique seized the Duchesse under the arms 
and yanked her up. ‘You are going to get some warmth into you and 
then you are going to lie down. The King won’t like it if you show up 
before him looking like a ghost.’ 

In the house where some shelter had been reserved for the favourite, 
she commanded the lackeys to build up the fire. Then she passed the 
warming pan between the damp sheets, prepared a tisane, and put 
Mademoiselle de la Valliere to bed with such unrelenting authority that 
the Duchesse did not dare protest. Under the coverlets which Angelique 
heaped over her, she seemed terribly frail. The epithet ‘gaunt’ which a 
vindictive pamphleteer had bestowed upon her seemed hardly exag- 
gerated. Her bones stuck out through her skin. She was in the seventh 
month of pregnancy, her fifth in six years. She was only twenty-three 
years old. Behind her already was the greatest love affair any woman 
could hope for; before her a long, long life of tears. Just the previous 
autumn she had shone with what had proved to be a sunset glory. Only 
a few months later the change was overpowering. 

That’s what loving a man can do to a woman,’ Angelique thought. 
Her anger flared again. She remembered Barcarole’s story of how La 
Valliere’s rivals wanted to poison her, and shuddered. 

‘How good you are!’ murmured Louise de la Valliere. Tut they 
said . . 

‘Why do you pay any heed to what “they” say? You just injure your- 
self needlessly. I can’t do anything about wicked tongues any more 
than you can. I’m just like you in that respect.’ 

She was about to add: ‘And just as stupid. I’ve been an unwitting 
screen.’ Then she thought, ‘What good would that do?’ Why turn 
Louise’s jealousy in another direction? Soon enough she would find a 
revenge so sweet it would make her best friend’s betrayal look feeble. 

‘Go to sleep now,’ she whispered. ‘The King still loves you.’ It was 
the only thing she could think of to soothe the ache of poor Louise’s 
wounded heart. 

Louise gave her a pathetic little smile. ‘He has not been good 
to me.’ 

‘How can you say that? Hasn’t he just shown his devotion by giving 
you all those titles and other presents which leave no doubt of how he 
feels about you? You are Duchesse de Vaujoux, and your daughter will 
not be condemned to obscurity.’ 

The favourite shook her head. Tears seeped out of her closed eyes and 


dribbled down her temples. She who had always concealed her preg- 
nancies at the cost of unspeakable torment, who had seen her babes 
torn from her as soon as they were bom, who had never permitted her- 
self to grieve for the three sons she had lost, even to the point of appear- 
ing at a ball smiling in order to deceive anyone as to her true grief, who 
had always done her utmost to give the lie to her scandalous position, 
had suddenly seen herself publicly declared the mother of a daughter 
by the King without having even been consulted about the announce- 
ment. And wasn't there a rumour that the Marquis de Vardes was 
being recalled from exile by the King in order to marry her? 

All Angelique’s words of comfort and encouragement were empty. 
They had come too late. Angelique said no more, just sat holding her 
hand until finally she fell asleep. 

As she was going back to the Queen's house, she glimpsed a coach 
lamp. It made her think of the Queen, also waiting for the King, tor- 
tured by a thousand suspicions, imagining him in the arms of La 
Valliere, who all the time was waiting in the cold one floor below her. 
What good would it do to tell her the name of her true rival? It would 
add only one more drop of venom to her already over-poisoned cup. 
Madame de Montespan was justified in sleeping soundly in her nest of 
hay. She knew - she had always known - that Madame du Plessis would 
hold her tongue. 

Charleroi, Armentieres, Saint-Vinoux, Douai, Oudenarde, the fortress 
of La Scarpe, Courtrai - all fell like houses of cards. 

In each the King and Queen of France were received with pomp and 
harangued by aldermen, and after parading through carpeted streets, 
went to hear a Te Deum in some old lacy-gothic church of the north 
whose slender fleche seemed to pierce the sullen sky. 

In between Te Deums the war would break out in a kind of con- 
vulsion, and the fire of cannon and musket sound in the distance. The 
garrison risked sorties that sometimes resulted in casualties, but the 
Spanish were few in number and Spain was far away. Cut off from 
reinforcements and under the pressure of inhabitants who had no wish 
to suffer the pangs of starvation for the sake of glory, the towns 

Beneath the walls of Douai the horse of one of the King’s guards 
was killed under him. Louis XIV was very much in the field. The smell 
of powder intoxicated him, and he took delight in leading a squadron to 
the attack. Once the siege of Lille had begun, he would climb down 


into the trenches every day like a common soldier, much to the con- 
cern of the courtiers. After Turenne saw him covered with dirt from 
a cannon ball that had just landed near him, he threatened to raise the 
siege if the King continued to be so rash. But the King had led the 
charge right up to the breastworks in full view of the army, and refused 
to retreat. The Marshal du Plessis-Belliere said to him: Take my hat 
and give me yours. Then if the Spaniards aim at the plume they will 
get the wrong man/ 

The next day the King was more prudent. Philippe was awarded the 
blue ribbon of the Order of Saint-Louis. 

Summer arrived, and the weather grew hot. The smoke of the mortars 
rose in little clouds into a sky of periwinkle blue. 

Mademoiselle de la Valliere had remained at Compi&gne, but the 
Queen rejoined the army, taking with her in her carriage Mademoiselle 
de Montpensier, the Princesse de Bade, Madame de Montausier and 
Madame de Montespan. Behind them, in another coach, came 
Mesdames d’Armagnac, de Bouillon, cje Crequi, de Bethune and du 
Plessis-Belliere. They were all tired to death and terribly thirsty. 

As they alighted they were surprised to encounter a caravan con- 
sisting of a wagon laden with cakes of ice. It refreshed them merely to 
look upon it glistening in the sunlight. Escorting it were some un- 
gainly fellows, with jet-black moustaches and dour looks, in patched 
uniforms. The officer who rode with them left no doubt whatever of 
their origin. His full plaited ruff and his lofty manner revealed him as 
a true hidalgo of His Most Catholic Majesty. He explained to the 
ladies that Monsieur de Brouay, the Spanish governor of Lille, sent ice 
every day to the King of France out of chivalry -or perhaps sheer 

'Ask him/ said the King, 'to send me a little more/ 

‘Sire, ’answered the Castilian, 'my general saves it because he hopes 
it will be a long siege and he is afraid he may run out of ice for Your 

The old Due de Charost shouted to him from the King’s side, 'Good 
for himl Tell Brouay not to follow the Governor of Douai’s example. 
He surrendered like a craven rogue/ 

'Are you insane, sir?’ the King said sharply. 'Do you want to en- 
courage our enemies to resist?’ 

'Sire, it’s a matter of family pride. You see, Brouay is my cousin/ 

The life of the Court continued in the camps. The fields were strewn 
with many-coloured pavilions symmetrically disposed. The King’s, 
which was the largest, consisted of three rooms -one sleeping room 


and two conference rooms. It was hung with Chinese silk and furnished 
with gilded chairs and tables. His arising and retiring went on with 
exacdy the same ceremony as at Versailles. 

Everyone enjoyed the sumptuous meals all the more by thinking of 
the Spaniards behind the sombre ramparts of Lille, reduced to gnawing 

Louis XIV entertained the ladies of the Court at his table. One 
evening at dinner his glance fell on Angelique sitting not far from 
him. His recent victories, not to mention the more personal one over 
Madame de Montespan, and the exhilaration of triumph, had some- 
what dimmed his usually keen powers of observation. He thought he 
was seeing her for the first time during the campaign and asked her 

'So you have left the capital? What were they saying in Paris when 
you set out?* 

Angelique looked at him coolly. 'Sire, they were saying evening 

'I meant, what was new?’ 

'Green peas. Sire/ 

Her answers might have seemed funny if they had not been uttered 
in a tone as icy as the look in her eyes. The King fell silent in astonish- 
ment, and since he was not quick-witted, his cheeks grew red. 

Madame de Montespan came to the rescue by laughing infectiously. 
She explained that the latest game was to answer direct questions as 
absurdly as possible. Everyone was playing it in Paris in the salons 
and at the receptions of the intellectuals, trying to get the best of one 
another, and Madame du Plessis was very clever at it. Soon everyone at 
the table was trying it, and the meal ended in fun. 

On the following morning Angelique was applying her make-up 
under the eyes of an inquisitive cow when the Marshal du Plessis- 
Belliere had himself announced. Like all the other great ladies who 
had taken the field, she suffered few of the inconveniences of travel. 
As soon as she could find a place to set up her dressing-table, she carried 
on as at home. The scent of her face powder and perfumes mingled 
with the stink of manure, but neither the great lady in her filmy neglige 
nor the black and white cows that kept her company bothered one 
another. Javotte was helping her into her first skirt, which was pink 
silk with pale green stripes, while Therese tied its laces. 

When she saw her husband Angelique sent the maids away, but she 
continued to concentrate on her reflection in the mirror, in which 
Philippe's stormy face appeared over her shoulder* 


'I hear foul rumours about you, Madame. I thought it my duty to 
leave my post to lecture you, perhaps punish you.’ 

'What are these rumours ?’ 

‘You made fun of the King when he did you the honour of speak- 
ing directly to you/ 

'Is that all?’ said Angelique, selecting a beauty patch from a little 
box of chased gold. 'There are plenty of other rumours about me 
making the rounds which might have disturbed you long ago. The only 
time you seem to remember your marital duties is when you think you 
should apply the matrimonial lash/ 

'Did you answer the King impertinently? Answer yes or no/ 

'I had my reasons/ 

'But . . . you were speaking to the King!’ 

'King or not, he is still nothing but a naughty boy who needs to be 
put in his place from from to time/ 

If she had uttered blasphemy, Philippe could not have been more 
overwhelmed. He seemed to be choking. 

'Have you lost your mind?’ 

He paced up and down, then leaned against the wooden manger and 
began to stare at Angelique as he chewed on a piece of straw. 

‘Aha, now I see which way the wind blows. I gave you a bit of 
freedom in honour of my son whom you bore and nursed, and you are 
trying to take advantage of it. It’s high time I started cracking the whip 

Angelique shrugged her shoulders, restraining herself from answer- 
ing him too smartly, and gave her entire attention to her mirror as she 
performed the delicate operation of affixing a patch to her right 

'What would be a fitting punishment to teach you how to behave at 
a King’s table?’ Philippe said. 'Exile? Hum! You would find some way 
of showing up again behind, me just as soon as I turned my back. You 
need another taste of my dog whip. Yes, I remember that made you 
hang your head. Or ... I can think of a few other even more exquisite 
measures, such as the end of a rope, that I am tempted to try on 

'Don’t tire your imagination, Philippe. You are too strict a school- 
master. It was only three words that just happened to pop out . . / 

'. . . in answer to the King!’ 

'The King is only a man after all/ 

'That is where you are mistaken. The King is the King. You owe him 
obedience and respect and loyalty/ 

‘And what else? Am I to give him the right to dictate my life, to 
sully my reputation, to betray my confidence?’ 

The King is our master. He has all rights over you.’ 

Angelique swung around and squinted at Philippe defiantly. ‘Oh 
yes? And if it strikes his fancy to make me his mistress, what am I to 
do then, pray?’ 

‘Agree. Doesn’t it occur to you that all his ladies, the gems of the 
Court of France, are there only for the prince’s pleasure?’ 

‘Well, you certainly are a generous husband ! If your affection for me 
doesn’t, then your proprietary instincts certainly should absolutely 

‘Everything I own belongs to the King. I would never refuse him 
anything, from the smallest trifle right up to my life itself.’ 

Angelique screamed with vexation. Her husband had a way of 
wounding her to the quick. But what had she expected? Some indica- 
tion that he was jealous? That was too much. He cared nothing for her, 
and did not disguise the fact. His passing interest in her by the hearth- 
side was only for the person who had happened to have the honour of 
delivering his infant heir. She turned back to her dressing-table, snapped 
shut the box of patches, and her hands shaking with rage, picked up 
first one comb and then another. 

Philippe watched her with grim satisfaction. 

Angelique’s anger burst forth in a flood of harsh words. ‘I forgot. It 
is true, a woman to you is nothing more than a thing, a piece of 
furniture, good only for bringing children into the world. Less than 
a brood-mare, less than a stable-boy. Something to be bought and 
sold, or put out to pasture when she has ceased to be of use to you. 
That’s what women are to men of your kind. At best, they’re a piece of 
cake or a bowl of stew you leap on when you’re hungry.’ 

‘A pretty picture!’ said Philippe. ‘I don’t deny it’s true. I must 
confess that with your rosy cheeks and your plump figure, you are 
appetising. As a matter of fact, I feel hungry all of a sudden.’ 

He tiptoed up to her and laid his hands possessively on her shoulders. 
Angelique jerked away and laced up her bodice tightly. 

‘Don’t count on anything like that, my boy,’ she said icily. 

In a frenzy Philippe ripped open her bodice, tearing off three of its 
diamond-studded hooks. ‘Do I have to say “Please”, you simpering fool?’ 
he growled. ‘Can’t you ever understand that you belong to me? Ha-ha, 
that’s where the stick really hurts, isn’t it? The proud Marquise still 
would like to think she’s entitled to pretty little attentions!’ 

He stripped off her bodice, tore away her chemise, and seized 

her breasts with the brutality of a mercenary soldier on a night of 

‘Have you forgotten your origins, Madame la Marquise? Once you 
were nothing but a little peasant girl with a runny nose and dirty feet. 
I can see you now in your tattered short skirt, your hair hanging down 
in your eyes, and proud as Satan/ 

He grasped her head to bring her face close to his, squeezing her 
temples so hard she thought her skull would split. 

‘And this is what crawls out of a crumbling old castle and thinks she 
can answer the King impertinendy ! The stable is where you belong, 
Madame de Monteloup, and it would suit you better even now. I am 
going to revive some of your peasant memories/ 

‘Let me go!’ screamed Angelique, trying to strike him. 

But she bruised her knuckles on his metal breastplate and had to 
shake her aching fingers, groaning with pain. Philippe laughed, and 
twisted her while she struggled. 

‘Now, little brat of a shepherd-girl, we’ll truss you up without any 
further ado/ 

He lifted her up in his arms and tossed her on to a pile of hay in a 
dark corner of the bam. 

‘Let me go ! Let me go 1 * Angelique kept screaming. 

‘Shut up! Do you want to rouse the whole garrison?' 

‘Yes. So much the better. Then everyone could see the way you treat 

‘What a fine scandal ! Madame du Plessis raped by her own husband !' 

‘I hate you!’ 

She was half smothering in the hay where they struggled, but she 
succeeded in biting his hand until it bled. 


He struck her several times across the mouth, then pinioned her arms 
behind her back, paralysing her movements. 

‘Good Lord/ he panted, half jokingly, ‘I never had to deal before 
with such a madwoman. I need a whole regiment.’ 

Angelique felt her strength ebbing. This would be just like the other 
times. She would have to submit to his humiliating ownership in the 
bestial subservience he demanded. Her pride reared up against it, and 
her love too -the bashful love she had borne Philippe, which would 
never die, which she would never confess. 


He was achieving his ends. This was not the first time he had had 
a struggle like this in the hay in some dark corner of a lonely barn. He 

* 5 * 

knew how to subdue his prey and tear it to pieces as it palpitated 
pantingly under him. 

Tiny pinpoints of gold danced in the thin shaft of sunlight that shot 
into the deep shadows from between the boards of the wall. 


He heard her call his name, but her voice sounded strange to him. 

Out of fatigue or perhaps the soporific odour of the hay Angelique 
succumbed. She had had enough of anger, and accepted the attentions 
and the mastery of the man who had treated her so cruelly. It was the 
same Philippe she had loved ever since the days at Monteloup. What 
difference did it make that she was hurt so long as it was by him? 

She surrendered to the elation of her instincts and became only a 
female yielding to the demands of a male. She was his victim, his 
thing. He had a right to use her as he pleased. 

In spite of the raging passion that possessed him, Philippe perceived 
the moment of capitulation which suddenly relaxed her. Fearing he 
had wounded her, he controlled his blind desire a little and tried to guess 
what the darkness concealed in the sudden silence. Then he felt the 
gentle touch of her hand on his cheek, sending a thrill through him 
and so unnerving him that he sank feebly against her body. 

He resolved to restrain himself, and withdrew not knowing that he 
had almost brought her to the point of ecstasy. 

Glancing at her out of the comer of his eye, he guessed that she was 
arranging her clothing. Each of her movements brought him the warm 
perfume of her flesh. He began to suspect her compliance. 

‘My compliments seem to have displeased you less than I thought 
Don’t forget they were intended as a punishment.’ 

She let a second slip by before she answered in a sweet shy voice: 
‘Perhaps they were a reward.’ 

Philippe leaped to his feet as if he sensed a present danger. He felt 
unnaturally weak. He would have liked again to lie in the warm hay 
near Angelique and talk intimately, but such an unfamiliar tempta- 
tion disgusted him. 

He left the bam with the uncomfortable feeling that this time he had 
not had the last word. 


Versailles sweltered under the broiling sun of a July afternoon. To find 
a little coolness Angelique and Madame de Ludre and Madame de 


Choisy were strolling by the Water Arch, a pleasant walk shaded by 
trees and cooled by fountains that shot upward on both sides behind a 
grassy bank to join in a vault so lofty that one could walk beneath it 
without getting sprinkled. Here they encountered Vivonne. 

‘I have a proposition to discuss with you, Madame,’ he said to 
Angelique. ‘I address you now not as the most ravishing nymph of 
these groves, but as a wise mother such as the ancients would have 
revered. In a word, I ask your consent to add your boy Cantor to my 

‘Cantor? But how could such a child be of use to you?’ 

‘You might as well ask how one could wish to have a songbird. The 
boy has completely captivated me. He sings so sweetly and plays so 
many different instruments so well, I should like to have him along 
on my expedition so that I may continue composing verses and listen to 
them sung by his angelic voice.’ 

‘Your expedition?’ 

‘Don’t you know that I have just been appointed Admiral of the 
Fleet? The King is sending me to fight the Turks besieging Candia in 
the Mediterranean.’ 

‘So far away!’ Angelique exclaimed. ‘I don’t want to let my boy go. 
He is much too young, only eight years old . . .’ 

‘He looks eleven. He would not be lonely. My pages are all 
boys of good family. My steward is a mature man who has several 
children of his own, and he can be trusted to take good care of your 
sweet little boy. In addition, Madame, don’t you have interests 
in Candia? Shouldn’t you be sending one of your sons to look after 
your fief?’ 

Angelique refused to take the proposal seriously, but she did say she 
would think it over. 

‘It would be to your advantage to grant Vivonne’s request,’ Madame 
de Choisy remarked after the Admiral had left them. ‘He has a very 
high position now. His new promotion has made him one of the most 
important persons in France.’ 

Madame de Ludre smiled acidly. ‘And don’t let’s forget that His 
Majesty is more and more disposed every day to honour him, if for no 
other reason than to get in the good graces of his sister.’ 

‘You talk as if Madame de Montespan were already the favourite,’ 
said Madame de Choisy. ‘She is being very discreet about it.’ 

‘What she shows and what she does are not necessarily the same, as 
you should have learned from experience by this time. Perhaps Madame 
de Montespan would rather not disclose her romance, but her jealous 


husband hasn’t given her a chance. He is making as much of a scandal 
out of it as if his rival were some Paris fop or other/ 

‘Don’t mention that man’s name! He’s a fool and one of the most 
dissolute men in the kingdom to boot/ 

*1 hear that recendy he came to a litde dinner party of Monsieur’s 
without a wig, and when he was asked why, said he had two 
horns on his forehead that kept him from wearing one. He really is 
funny 1’ 

‘What he dared say to the King yesterday at Saint-Germain isn’t so 
funny. We were coming back from a walk on the terrace when we saw 
Montespan’s coach all shrouded in black with silver tassels. He was in 
black, too. The King seemed to be very concerned and asked him who he 
was in mourning for. He answered very sorrowfully, “For my wife, 

Madame de Ludre laughed loudly, and so did Angelique. 

‘Go on and laugh/ Madame de Choisy said in a tone of injured 
dignity. That kind of behaviour is all very well for a street carnival, but 
not for the Court. The King won’t stand for it. Montespan is risking 
the Bastille/ 

‘That’s where everyone winds up/ 

‘How can you be so cynical, Madame?’ 

‘The King won’t go to such lengths. It would amount to a public 
confession on his part.’ 

‘As far as I’m concerned/ Angelique said, ‘I had just as soon have 
Madame de Montespan’s conduct made public. I have had to endure 
the ridiculous gossip that’s been spread about the King and insignificant 
little me. Then they could see there was absolutely no basis for it’ 

‘Well, I must say I thought for a long time it was you who would 
succeed Mademoiselle de la Vallikre,’ said Madame de Choisy almost 
wistfully. ‘But I do admit you have kept your reputation/ She sounded 
as if she were annoyed that her predictions had proved false. 

‘You didn’t have to cope with as unco-operative a husband as 
Monsieur de Montespan/ said Madame de Ludre, ‘always throwing 
poisoned darts. He isn’t even at Court now you are here . . / 

‘He has had to be at the front, first in Flanders and now in Franche- 

‘Now don’t get cross, dear. I was only joking, and after all he is only 
a husband/ 

As they chatted they came to the broad walk that led to the palace, 
where they had to keep dodging workmen and servants carrying or 
climbing ladders to hang lanterns on the bushes and the long rows of 


elms. Axes were ringing deep in the thickets. The park was getting 
ready for a fete. 

T hope we’ll have time to change our clothes/ said Madame de Choisy. 
‘The King seems to be preparing some wonderful surprise for us, but 
ever since we arrived everyone has been twiddling his thumbs while His 
Majesty has held conference after conference/ 

The fete is supposed to begin at twilight. I think our patience will be 

The King wanted to celebrate his triumph of arms with a series of 
great fetes. The glorious conquest of Flanders and the lightning winter 
campaign in Franche-Comte had borne fruit. An astonished Europe 
was keeping its eye on the young King, who previously had been re- 
garded as the victim of treacherous advisers. His pomp and pageantry 
had already become the talk of the world; now his audacity in warfare 
and his subde diplomacy were drawing equal attention. Louis XIV 
wanted the brilliance of his fetes to be noised abroad, like clashing 
cymbals to accompany the trumpets of his fame. 

He had charged the Due de Crequi, the first gentleman of the bed- 
chamber; Marshal de Bellefonde, the chief steward; and Colbert, as well 
as his master of the works, to oversee the organisation of pageants, 
banquets, triumphal displays, illuminations and fireworks. The plans 
were quickly drawn and executed. 

Just as Angelique appeared in a gown of turquoise blue frosted with 
so many diamonds that she appeared clad in a rainbow, the King 
entered the great hall from his apartments. He was no more splendidly 
attired than usual, but he had never seemed more charming. Every- 
one realised that now the hour for pleasure had struck. 

The gates of the palace had been opened to the populace, who were 
now invading the courtyards, the salons and the gardens, their eyes pop- 
ping as they ran from point to point through the grounds to see the royal 
procession pass. The King kept hold of the Queen’s hand. She was like 
a child for delight, even though her narrow shoulders could hardly bear 
the weight of the gold-embroidered dress that encased her like a gothic 
shrine. She adored such an array of gorgeous finery, and the fact that 
the King was by her side made her seem beside herself with happiness. 
It was as if her aching heart knew a little respite from its pain, for the 
tatding tongues of the Court had not yet agreed on who the new 
favourite was to be. 

Of course, Mademoiselle de la Valliere and Madame de Montespan 
were there, the former rather crushed, but the latter as merry as usual. 
And Madame du Plessis-Belliere was there, too, more beautiful and 

distinguished than ever. And Madame du Ludre and Madame du Roure. 
But they were merely part of the crowd, and no one paid them any 
particular attention. 

The King and Queen, with the Court following them at a slight dis- 
tance, walked across the lawns that led down to the Fountain of the 
Dragon on the right of the palace. It had just been completed, and the 
King wanted to show off its beauty and the intricate mechanisms of 
its operations. 

In the centre of a huge pool a dragon wounded by an arrow spurted 
like its lifeblood a tremendous jet of water that broke into spray and 
fell like rain into the pool. Water spouted and sprayed from the 
mouths of dolphins swimming around the central figure. Two putti, 
mounted on swans whose beaks shot streams of water before them, 
attacked the hideous monster from the front, while two more harassed 
it from the rear. The statues were patinated with green gold, the swans 
with silver, and the network of spraying water lent the ensemble the 
mystery of some subaqueous drama. 

After everyone had had a chance to gasp in admiration, the King 
resumed his progress, and slowly the procession wound along the walks 
that led past the Fountain of Latona toward the Great Terrace. The 
late sky had crimsoned and the trees grown bluish, but there was still 
enough light for the bronze statues to reflect it and glow in the radiance 
of the setting sun. At that period the entire park of Versailles was 
alive with colour, for the sculptures that were not gilded were painted 
in natural hues. 

At the entrance to the maze ^sop in a red hood, his misshapen body 
wrapped in a blue cloak, greeted the princes with a sly glint in his 
eyes and a cynical smile on his lips. Before him stood the God of Love 
to signify that love often involves one in tangled webs, while worldly 
experience and a sense of humour provide a thread to guide one out of 
love’s labyrinth and triumph over them. 

The King explained the allegory to the Queen, who seemed greatly 
entertained by the charade. 

The maze itself, which was an indispensable ornament of royal 
gardens then, was one of the wonders of Versailles. It consisted of an 
enclosure of closely planted bushy trees hedging narrow paths which 
crossed and blocked one another until it was well nigh impossible not 
to get lost. At every turn the courtiers gasped with amazement as they 
discovered one or another of the thirty-nine groups of statuary sur- 
rounded by rock gardens or shell-like reflecting pools, placed there to 
divert the wanderers and cause them to lose their way even more. They 

x 57 

represented the animals in JEsop's Fables, and had been scrupulously 
copied from living models in the zoo. Thirty-seven quatrains of 
Benserade, carved in golden letters on the bronze pedestals, recited the 
story connected with each. 

Up until then the progress had been no more than the usual one that 
the Court indulged in every day as it followed its master, who never 
tired of admiring the beauty and the development of his gardens. But 
suddenly, at the intersection of five walks, the company came upon a 
spectacular summer-house in the shape of a pentagon, shaded by lofty 
elms. Each of the five sides was decorated with a carved tracery of foliage 
framed with garlands, and the central area contained three marble urns 
decorated with red, pink, blue and white flowers. In the middle a jet of 
water spurted upward in a snowy shaft, and surrounding the pool into 
which it fell were five marble tables facing each of the intersecting paths. 
These were separated by majolica jars in which grew orange trees bear- 
ing candied fruits. 

On each of the tables was a mouth-watering confection. One 
represented a mountain in whose caves were all sorts of cold dishes. 
Another was topped with a miniature palace of marzipan and petits 
fours . 

The third bore a pyramid of candied fruit. On the next was a vast 
number of crystal goblets and silver pitchers filled with all kinds of 
liqueurs. The last offered an assortment of bonbons - brown for the 
chocolate-flavoured ones, golden for the honey, red for the cinnamon. 
They paused to admire the charm of this cool, refreshing room, then 
fell to with greedy hands on the palace of marzipan until it lay in ruins, 
or gobbled up the bonbons, or drained the glasses of liqueurs. Reclin- 
ing on the grassy banks, the noble lords and ladies threw themselves 
wholeheartedly into the informal spirit of a picnic. 

From this central point they could gaze down the five paths bordered 
with arches of cypress trees under each of which was a potted fruit- 
tree laden with magnificent fruits. Presendy they roamed along them 
picking pears, apples, peaches, lemons and cherries. 

At the end of one vista a statue of Pan reflected one last crimson 
ray while behind it two satyrs and two bacchantes danced in dim 
silhouette against the pale green sky. 

‘What good spirit has transported us to Arcady?’ exclaimed Made- 
moiselle de Scudery. 

‘Any minute now we'll catch sight of Corydon and Phyllis and their 
beribboned sheep V 

Just as they spoke, a fuse began to sputter, lighting first one and then 


another of the thousand lanterns hung amid the bushes and in the 
trees. The shepherds and shepherdesses they had imagined came into 
reality, singing and dancing, while forty satyrs and bacchantes scaled 
a high rock on which they whirled their thyrses and clashed their 
cymbals before descending to surround the company and lead it toward 
the theatre. 

An open carriage and sedan chairs were awaiting the King, the 
Queen and the Princes to bear them along the linden-bordered avenues. 

The theatre where the evening's comedy was to be acted had been 
constructed in a large open space where the Royal Avenue converged 
with several other paths. Hideous confusion broke out as the guests of 
honour and the courtiers fought for seats that had not been systematic- 
ally distributed. The whirling satyrs and bacchantes added a wild, 
saturnalian note to the scene. The door of the King’s carriage was 
opened, then quickly shut again. The Queen's sedan chair could not 
get through the mob. Its bearers shouted in vain: ‘Make way for Her 
Majesty the Queen!’ No one budged. For half an hour Marie-Therese 
tried to get through, but was forced to wait seething with rage. Finally 
the King himself came after her. 

From the very beginning of the melee Angelique had withdrawn. 
Her good sense told her not to endanger her delicate costume in that 
hurlyburly, and she extricated herself from the swarming ant-hill along 
with a few others who had also resolved to wait. The play would go on 
for a long time. The night was mild and the park of Versailles with its 
lanterns and the plashing of its fountains was like a fairyland. She 
relished being alone. Glimpsing a marble tempietta half-hidden by the 
shrubbery that twinkled with tiny lanterns like a starry sky, she directed 
her steps towards it. The scent of honeysuckle and rambler roses en- 
veloped her as the tumult of the crowd faded from her ears. 

As she looked up, she thought she was dreaming. There on the steps 
of the tempietta a snow-white phantom was bowing to her, and as it 
straightened she recognised Philippe. 

She had not seen him since their love-struggle in the bam which 
Philippe had so wickedly engineered and which had left her, in spite of 
herself, with an unpleasant memory. While the Court returned to the 
capital, Philippe had remained in the north and then had led the 
army to Franche-Comte. Angelique had heard of his movements only 
by public report, for naturally Philippe had not taken the trouble to 
write her. 

She sometimes wrote to him, however - little notes in which she 
told him about Charles-Henri and the Court - but she had hoped in vain 


for any reply from him. Now suddenly there he was before her very 
eyes, a shadow of a smile on his lips. 

1 greet the Baroness of the Doleful Garb/ he said. 

‘Philippe/ she exclaimed, spreading her heavily brocaded skirt, 
‘there are ten thousand livres worth of diamonds on this dress/ 

‘The one you used to wear was grey with light blue bows at its bodice 
and a white collar/ 

‘Do you really remember that?’ 

‘Why shouldn’t I?’ 

He went up the steps and leaned against one of the marble pillars. 
She held out her hand to him. After a moment he kissed it. 

‘I thought you were with the army/ Angelique said. 

1 received a message from the King urging me to return to the 
Court to appear at the fete he wished to give this evening. I was to 
be one of its ornaments/ 

There was nothing fatuous about his last remark, only a recognition 
of the part he accepted with punctilious obedience. The King wanted in 
his suite the most beautiful women and the most splendid lords. On 
this day of days he could not have dispensed with the handsomest noble 
of his Court. “By all means the handsomest,” thought Angelique as 
she surveyed his lean, dashing form in its white, gold-embroidered 
costume. His sword had a gold pommel, and his soft white leadier 
shoes had gold heels. It had been many months since she had seen him. 

‘Has the King relieved you of your command?* she asked. 

‘No, I asked him not to/ 


‘I like war/ 

‘Did you get my letters?’ 

‘Your letters . . . oh . • • yes, I think so/ 

Angelique snapped her fan shut. ‘Perhaps you never learned to read/ 

‘When I’m with the army I have other things to do than read billets 
doux and nonsense like that/ 

‘Just as gracious as ever, aren’t you?’ 

‘And just as mettlesome. I’m pleased to see you in such a good 
humour. As a matter of fact, I must say I’ve rather missed your 
belligerent spirit. A military campaign is tedious. Two or three sieges, 
a few skirmishes . . . You would have certainly found some way to liven 
things up/ 

‘When are you going back?’ 

‘The King has told me he wants me at Court from now on. We shall 
have plenty of time to squabble/ 


‘And time enough for other things, too/ said Angelique, looking him 
straight in the eye. 

The night was so soft and their isolation in the little temple of love 
so complete that she did not care how bold she was. He had come back 
to her, had searched her out among the crowds of courtiers, had not 
been able to resist his desire to be with her. Under all his sarcasm lurked 
the confession that he had missed her. Wasn't this an indication that 
they were on their way to some understanding? 

Philippe grasped her wrists. His lips pushed her bracelets up her 
arms as he kissed her silken skin. Then his finger stole beneath the heavy 
jewelled collar that encased her neck and spread over her shoulders. 

‘A well-defended town/ he said. ‘I have always admired the strategy 
with which beautiful women arrange to be both half-exposed and yet 

That's the strategy of jewels, Philippe - a woman's armour. It's what 
lends charm to our fetes. Do you find me beautiful?' 

Too beautiful/ he said enigmatically. ‘Dangerously beautiful.' 

‘For you?' 

‘And for others, too. What difference does it make, though? It suits 
you. You jump with joy at the very thought of playing with fire. It would 
be easier to make a plough-horse out of a thoroughbred than to change 
the nature of a whore.' 

‘Philippe! Oh, dear, and you were talking like a real gallant!' 

Philippe laughed. ‘Ninon de Lenclos always advised me to keep my 
mouth shut. Don't talk, don't smile, just be handsome and appear and 
disappear, that's for you,' she used to say. And whenever I have dis- 
regarded. her advice, I have got into lots of trouble.’ 

‘Ninon isn't always right. I like to hear you talk that way/ 

‘Every woman likes a parrot.' 

He took her hand and led her down the marble steps. The violins 
are louder. The play must be over and the doors must be open. It is 
time for us to join the King and his suite again.' 

They walked back along a path bordered by fruit-trees growing in 
silver jars. Philippe picked a rosy apple. ‘Do you want it?' he said. 

She took it almost shyly, smiling as their eyes met. 

Then they were separated in the busding crowd. The audience were 
discussing the merits of the play and how Moliere could make them 
laugh at the same time as he was clarifying their knowledge of human 

The dark tent of the night sky and the trees formed a perfect setting 
for the brighdy lighted building to which they came next. It was 


another dream palace, guarded by gilded fauns piping on mossy 
pedestals, and urns of translucent alabaster from which trickled little 
waterfalls, the whole encased in a crystal dome of light. 

The King stopped for a moment ot admire the sight, then entered 
the delicate edifice. Its ceiling was of green boughs bound to a delicate 
lattice-work studded with gold. Around the cornice were porcelain 
vases filled with flowers interspersed with crystal prisms that flashed 
rainbows on the ceiling. Garlands of flowers hung from it on silver 
cords, and hundreds of dangling lamps illuminated it like a palace 
in the Arabian Nights. Between each of the doors two torches flanked 
a jar that spilled a satiny sheet of water over stair-stepped scallop 
shells as it flowed to one of the fountains. Opposite the entrance an 
etagere held magnificent examples of the goldsmith's art - bowls, vases, 
covered dishes, platters and ewers for serving the King. 

In the centre was Pegasus with outspread wings striking with its 
hoof the crest of a high rock and causing the fountain of Hippocrene to 
spurt forth. Below this symbol of inspiration were ranged, on a lawn of 
green spun-sugar, trees that bore candied fruits, a flowery meadow of 
cakes and bonbons, and lakes of jellies, in the midst of which Apollo 
consorted with the Muses. They seemed to be presiding over the royal 
table which, festooned with flowers and laden with silver vessels, 
encircled the rock of Pegasus. 

This was the moment for the grand supper. The King took his place, 
and the ladies whom he wished as companions formed a dazzling 
chaplet about him, each one's costume rivalling the others. 

With a certain relief Angelique saw that she had not been designated 
to sit at the royal table. She could hardly have expected such an honour. 
Ever since the Flemish campaign the King's attitude toward her had 
been ambiguous; he had shown no displeasure with her, nor had he 
been any less affable, but there had risen a barrier between them to a 
degree that she sometimes wondered if she were not being merely 
tolerated at Court. 

With an ironic glance she identified the elect who enframed the Sun 
King and thought that but for a few exceptions it was wholly an 
assemblage of downright harridans exhausted by the debauches of 
their past. Everyone knew that Madame de Bounelle-Bullion, the wife 
of a Secretary of State, ran a disorderly house; that the Court Almanac 
had assigned Madame de Brissac for ever to what was euphemistically 
termed “Pleasure Island". Marshal de La Fert6 and the Comtesse de 
Fiesque were carrying on mincingly as if to cover up the fact that the 
shameless Bussy-Rabutin's scandalous History of the Loves of the 


French had pilloried them. At a little distance from them the Duchess 
of Mecklenberg, that old warrior of the Fronde, whose love affairs and 
intrigues had caused a fearful scandal, was ostentatiously stuffing her 
fat jowls. 

Among the exceptions were the serious Madame de Lafayette, and, 
to a certain extent, the subdued Duchesse de la Valliere, who had been 
relegated to the end of the table, where she nibbled gloomily at the 
dishes the King’s footmen passed her. No one paid the slightest 
attention to the fallen favourite. Louis XIV did not even glance in her 

What female face was in his thoughts as with his usual good appetite 
he gobbled the delicacies of the five courses that the nimble waiters of 
Le Due, the head chef, passed to the fifty-six guests at the royal table? 

Madame de Montespan was not among them. 

Angelique was told that she was to sit at Mademoiselle de Mont- 
pensier’s table, which was one of those set up under tents and presided 
over by the Queen and her Ladies-in-Waiting. Mademoiselle de Mont- 
pensier’s had forty places set. Angelique sat between Mademoiselle de 
Scudery, whom she knew slightly from having attended her salon, 
and a woman whom she had to look at twice before she could believe 
her eyes. 

‘Fran^oise, you here?’ 

Madame Scarron beamed at her. ‘Yes, my dear Angelique, but I must 
confess I am as incredulous as you. I can hardly believe my good luck 
when I think what a wretched state I was in just a few months ago. 
Did you know I was about to leave for Portugal?’ 

‘No, but I did hear that Monsieur de Cormeil wanted to marry you.* 

‘Oh, don’t talk to me about that 1 Because I refused him I lost all my 
patrons and friends.’ 

‘Isn’t he quite rich? He could have made life easy for you and 
relieved you of your eternal worries.’ 

‘But he is old and terribly worn out with debauchery. That’s what 1 
told everyone else who urged me to accept him. They were displeased 
with me because they thought I had no right to pick and choose in my 
situation and that I had not had such an opportunity since I married 
Scarron. I told Madame la Marechale all this just as emphatically as 
I could, and as reasonably, but she just blamed me for all my mis- 
fortunes. Ninon was the only one who said I was right, and her approval 
almost made up for my other friends’ cruelty. They dared to com- 
pare that old man with Scarron, what do you think of that! Oh, my 
lord, what a difference! He didn’t have money or leisure, but he sur- 


rounded me with all the wittiest, most brilliant people. Cormeil he 
would have loathed. Scarron had a love of life and a generous spirit that 
all the world envies. No one had so much of it as he. As for Cormeil, he’s 
neither intelligent nor lively nor even steadfast. Whenever he opens his 
mouth he puts his foot in it. My husband was no lightweight. I cor- 
rected his licentiousness, but he was neither stupid nor vicious. He was 
noted for his honesty and sincerity . . .’ 

She spoke in a subdued voice but with an intensity she permitted 
herself only when talking in confidence. Angelique, who acknowledged 
the charm of her personality, thought once more how truly pretty and 
attractive she was. The simplicity of her attire was perhaps in- 
appropriate, but her brown velvet dress was in excellent taste and her 
double choker of jet and small rubies suited her brown hair and her 
warm colouring. 

She went on to say how she had been reduced to such an extremity 
that she had finally agreed to accompany as a third lady-in-waiting - 
practically a chambermaid - the Princesse de Nemours, who was going 
to marry the King of Portugal. As she was making her farewell round 
of visits she had met Madame de Montespan, to whom she had 
described her plight, and who was horrified by it. 

‘Without disparaging me you can believe it. Athenais listened to me 
attentively even though she was getting dressed. You know we were 
boarding-school friends and come from the same province as you, Ange- 
lique. Ever since she came to Paris I had opportunities to do her a few 
small favours. Finally she assured me that she would take it upon her- 
self to speak to the King about the discontinuance of my pension and 
my unavailing petitions. I wrote about it once more on her advice, and 
ended by saying: “Two thousand limes is more than enough for my 
lonely welfare.” The King received it graciously and, miracle of 
miracles, my pension was restored. When I went to Saint-Germain to 
thank Athenais, I had the honour of seeing His Majesty, who said to 
me: ‘Madame, I made you wait a long time, but I have been jealous of 
your friends. I myself wanted to be the one to assist you.” Those words 
wiped out all my hard years. I began to breathe easily again, to live. I 
was free from all those gnawing, mean worries. I found my place again 
in society which had looked at me so coldly, went out in the world 
again, and . . . well, here I am at Versailles/ 

Angelique assured her sincerely that she was delighted. 

Madame de Montespan passing behind her laid her hand on her 
protegee’s shoulder as she passed behind her. ‘Happy?’ 

‘Ah, my dear Athenais, I shall be grateful to you as long as I live.’ 


The tables were emptying. The King had just risen with his suite and 
started down a long garden path, and the crowd was flowing into the 
Banquet Hall from all sides to plunder the dishes and the baskets of 
cakes and fruit that were left over. 

The walk seemed to come to a dead end in a wall of light, but this 
opened up as the parade approached to reveal another orchestration 
of cascading water, intricate patterns of light, silvered tritons and rocky 
grottoes. They passed through a grassy corridor arboured with flowers 
and bordered by laughing satyrs or jets of water, and came to foun- 
tains in which golden dolphins sported under lights that changed from 
hue to hue or shone in all colours at once. 

This magical promenade led to the ballroom of porphyry and marble. 
Silver candelabra hung from the beams of the ceiling which were 
decorated with golden suns on a deep blue background. Garlands of 
flowers draped the cornice, and between the columns which supported it 
were platforms for the musicians, and two grottoes in which were 
statues of Orpheus and Arion smiting their lyres. 

The King opened the ball with Madame and the princesses. Then 
the noble lords and ladies joined in, displaying their gorgeous costumes 
in complicated dance figures. The old-fashioned dances were fast, but 
the new-style ones were extremely slow, almost like religious processions, 
and much more difficult to follow, consisting as they did of artful steps 
and studied gestures of hand and arm. A relendess movement, as 
precisely detailed and almost as mechanical as a clock’s, involved the 
dancers like automatons in an interminable round. It seemed completely 
calm at first, but little by little the music imbued it with undisciplined 
excitement, filling the slow approaches with hot desire, electrifying the 
brief hand-clasps, inspiring passion in the lingering looks cast on fleet- 
ing partners, personalising the symbolic gestures of love and its refusal 
until the coranto became demonic. The Court was wild about these 
superficially innocuous rhythms, recognising under their deceptive mask 
the approach of Love which is less the child of flame than of night and 

Angelique danced well, and took pleasure in the intricate figures. 
Sometimes a hand would clasp hers meaningfully, but she was too in- 
volved in the dance to notice. Nevertheless she was aware of the two 
royal hands in which hers rested during the course of a rondeau. Her 
eyes met the King’s, then dropped quickly. 

'Still angry?’ whispered the King. 

Angelique pretended to be baffled. ‘Angry? At such a fete? What 
can Your Majesty mean?’ 

'Can such a fete sweeten the attitude you have taken toward me, all 
these many months?’ 

'Sire, you confuse me. If Your Majesty had such feelings about me 
all these many months, why did he not show them?’ 

1 was afraid you might throw green peas in my face.’ 

The dance separated them. When he passed her again she saw his 
imperious brown eyes searching for an answer. 

The word "afraid” does not suit Your Majesty.’ 

The war was less terrifying than the grim expression on your lovely 

As soon as she could Angelique left the dance and hid herself in the 
back row of seats among the dowagers beating time to the music with 
their fans. A page came looking for her there and told her to follow 
him at the King’s request. 

Outside the ballroom the King was waiting for her in a secluded part 
of the garden path where the light was dim. 

'You are right,’ he said jokingly. Tour beauty tonight rekindles my 
bravery. The moment has come for us to make up.’ 

'But is it the right moment? Everyone tonight is eager for your 
company and in a minute or two their eyes will start searching for you 
and they will wonder why you are absent.’ 

'No, they will go right on dancing. They will just think I am at the 
other end of the ballroom. This is the moment I have longed for to 
exchange a few words with you without attracting their attention.’ 

Angelique felt herself growing stiff as a steel rod. His technique was 
perfectly plain. Madame de Montespan and the King had put their 
heads together again in order to involve her in the game she had pro- 
vided for them at her own expense. 

'How stubborn you are ! ’ he said, taking her arm gently. ‘Haven’t I the 
right to thank you?’ 

‘For what?’ 

'Colbert has told me several times what a magnificent job you have 
done in the duties he assigned you in regard to certain persons at Court. 
You have been able to gain their confidence about matters of credit, to 
explain them, to put their minds at ease, and all in such a casual way 
they do not suspect you. We have no doubt that certain financial 
successes of ours are entirely due to you.’ 

'That’s nothing,’ she said, breaking away from him. 'Your Majesty 
does not have to acknowledge that. It’s all to my own good, and that is 
quite enough thanks.’ 

The King gave a start. The shadows into which he had drawn her were 

1 66 

not so deep that she could not perceive his features. The silence between 
them became embarrassingly tense. 

‘You do have a grudge against me. Please tell me why.’ 

‘How can Your Majesty be ignorant of the cause. This is not like 
your usual perspicacity/ 

‘My perspicacity often fails me when women are concerned. I can 
never be sure what they are thinking or feeling. What man, King or 
not, could ever be?’ 

In spite of his light tone, he seemed uncomfortable. His nervousness 

‘Let us return to your guests, Sire, if you please . . .' 

‘There's no hurry. I want to get to the bottom of this matter/ 

‘I have decided to be a shield for you and Madame de Montespan no 
longer/ she burst out. ‘Colbert is not paying me for that. I treasure my 
reputation enough to want to squander it as I please, not make a gift 
of it to someone else . . . even to the King/ 

‘Ah, so that's it. Madame de Montespan wanted to work you like a 
marionette and turn the suspicions of her impossible husband in your 
direction. Not a bad idea/ 

‘As if Your Majesty did not know that/ 

‘Do you think I am gullible or a hypocrite?' 

‘Do I have to lie to the King or displease him?' 

‘So that's the opinion you have of your sovereign?' 

‘My sovereign does not have to act that way toward me. What do you 
take me for? Do you think I am some toy you can throw away when you 
are tired of me? I do not belong to you/ 

He grasped her wrists violently. ‘You are mistaken. All my ladies 
belong to me by right/ 

Both of them were trembling with anger. They stared at each other 
for a moment with flashing eyes. 

The King was the first to recover himself. ‘Come now, let's not 
quarrel over nothing. Would you believe me if I told you I tried to 
persuade Madame de Montespan not to choose you as a victim? Why 
her? I kept saying to her. “Because/' she would answer, “only Madame 
du Plessis-Belliere can surpass me. I won't have it said Your Majesty 
turned from me to someone less glamorous than I/' You see, that’s 
proof of the high regard she has for you. She thought you were naive 
enough to play the game without seeing your stake in it. Or perhaps 
artful enough to do it, anyway. She was wrong on both counts. But it is 
not right for me to have to bear your ill will. Why has this little scheme 
hurt your feelings so, little toy? Is it such a great dishonour to be 


thought the mistress of the King? Don’t you get a certain fame out of 
it? Flattery? Opportunities?’ 

His arm gently drew her close to him and held her there, while he 
whispered to her, leaning over her and trying to discern her features in 
the dim light. 

‘Did you say your reputation had been sullied? Not at the Court, it 
hasn’t. On the contrary, it has acquired a new lustre, I assure you. So, 
am I to think that you ended up by letting yourself get caught in a 
trap? That you believe this farce? Is that what it is? Were you 

Angelique did not answer. She buried her head in the velvet of his 
doublet, inhaling its scent of orris root and relishing the soft embrace 
of his arms that held her to him ever more tightly. It had been a 
long time since she had been so tenderly treated. Ah, how sweet it felt 
to be rocked like this, petted like a child, even scolded a little ! 

‘How could such a practical litde person as you be so taken in by 
an illusion?’ 

She shook her head without answering. 

‘No, I didn’t think so,’ the King laughed. ‘Still, it is funny, isn’t it? 
If I were to tell you that I have never looked at you without desiring 
you and that often the thought has come to me . . 

Angelique wrenched herself away. ‘I would not believe you, Sire. I 
know Your Majesty’s heart lies elsewhere. Your choice is a good one 
. . . except for the nuisance of a jealous husband.’ 

‘Rather a sizeable nuisance,’ said the King wincing. 

He took Angelique’s arm again and led her down a walk of topiary 
yews. ‘You can’t imagine what that Montespan has done to annoy me. 
He will end by hailing me before my own Parliament. I’m sure Philippe 
du Plessis would be a more co-operative husband than that swaggering 
de Pardaillan. But we haven’t come to that yet,’ he ended with a sigh. 

He released her so as to look her squarely in the face. ‘Let’s make 
up, my little Marquise. Your King humbly asks your pardon. Won’t 
you melt a litde?’ 

It was easy for her to imagine the charm of his smile and the light 
in his eyes. She shivered. His face bending near hers, his smooth 
smiling lips, the warmth of his glance, attracted her irresistibly. Sud- 
denly she took to flight, lifting up her heavy rusding skirt for speed. 
But she ran head on into the thick hedge. 

Panting, she leaned against the pedestal of a statue and looked 
around her. She was in the little glade of the Girondelle. In the velvet 
blackness she discerned a silvery jet of water surrounded by ten smaller 

1 68 

jets that fell in snowy arches into the pool of the fountain. Above, in 
the blue-black sky, the moon shed its calming light on this earthly 
fairyland. Far in the distance she could hear the music of the fete, but 
here reigned a silence that was disturbed only by the plashing of the 
fountain and the steps of the approaching King grinding the damp 
gravel of the path under his heels. 

‘Little girl/ he murmured, ‘why did you run away?’ 

He seized her into his arms again, forcing her to nestle into the warm 
hollows of his shoulder, and leaned his cheek against her hair. 

‘They tried to hurt you and you did not deserve it, but I knew how 
cruel women can be to one another. It's up to me, your sovereign, to 
protect you. Forgive me, little girl/ 

Angelique felt her strength ebbing and her senses reeling in a sweet 
swoon. The King’s features were invisible under the shadow of his great 
Court hat, a shadow that enveloped both of them, but she could hear 
his low, winning voice. 

‘The creatures who live together here are frightful, my child. Believe 
me, I rule them with an iron rod, for I know what insurrections and 
what bloody madness they would be capable of if I did not. There isn’t 
one of them who wouldn’t incite a city or a whole province against me 
and cause my people woe. That’s why I keep them under my eye here 
in my Court at Versailles, where they are harmless. I shall let not one 
of them escape. Some of them sail so close to shore that they do them- 
selves great damage in their greedy savagery. You have to have strong, 
sharp teeth and claws to survive. But you are not like them, my pretty 
litde toy/ 

In a voice so low that he had to lean his ear to her lips to hear her she 
asked: ‘Are you trying to make me understand that I do not belong at 

*By no means. I want you there. You are one of its greatest and 
loveliest ornaments. Your taste, your charm, your grace captivate me. 
I have told you all this for your own good, so that you can escape these 
birds of prey/ 

‘I haven’t come off very well so far/ said Angelique. 

The King leaned his hand gendy on her brow to tilt back her head 
and bring her rose-petal face into the light of the moon. Under the 
dark fringe of her lashes Angelique’s green eyes were like a woodland 
spring guarding the mystery of its divinity. Almost fearfully the King 
pressed his lips to hers. He had not intended to frighten her, but soon 
he was only a man greedy with desire, and at his touch her youthful 
mouth, at first stubbornly shut, quavered, then opened knowingly. 


‘Ah ... she is experienced,’ he thought. Intrigued, he looked at her 
with new eyes. 1 love your lips,’ he said. ‘They are like no others - a 
woman’s and yet a young girl’s, cool yet burning.’ 

He went no further, and when she slowly drew away, he did not 
hold her. They remained tentatively a few feet apart. Suddenly a 
series of explosions rustled the branches of the trees. 

‘The fireworks are beginning. We must not miss them. Let’s go back,’ 
said the King reluctantly. 

Silently they walked to the edge of the ballroom. The nimble of the 
crowd punctuated by the explosions of the fireworks rolled towards them 
with a noise like the sea. Rounding a clump of jasmine they were sud- 
denly drenched in brilliant light. 

The King took Angelique’s hand to push her gently away and look 
at her. ‘I haven’t congratulated you yet on your gown. It is beautiful. 
Only your own beauty surpasses it.’ 

‘Thank you, Your Majesty.* 

Angelique made a deep curtsy. The King bowed, and clicking his 
heels, kissed her hand. 

‘Now, are we friends again?’ 


T shall dare hope so.’ 

Angelique drew away blinded by the strange lights and stunned to 
see how die palace loomed out of the darkness in the distance as if 
surrounded by a ring of fire. 

Cries of starded admiration burst from the spectators. The door 
framed a fiery image of the two-faced Janus. The windows of the ground 
floor blazed with trophies of war, and images of the Virtues glowed in 
the second-storey ones. At the top of the roof flamed a huge sun; on the 
ground level, a balustrade of fire surrounded the pile. 

The King’s coach passed by, drawn by six curvetting horses ridden 
by torch-bearing postilions. The Queen, Madame, Monsieur, Made- 
moiselle de Montpensier and the Prince de Conde were in it. They 
stopped by the Fountain of Latona which reflected the palace like a 
lake of fire in which supernatural beings moved beneath its vault of 
interlacing water-spouts. Phosphorescent vases helped the ancient 
candelabra to oudine the sweeping horseshoe curve. The King made 
his carriage stop so that he might contemplate the wondrous pattern 
of light. Behind the vehicles the hastening crowd filled the night with 
shrieks of wonder. 

The carriages turned and took the wide road bordered with a double 
row of herms which some strange mechanical process seemed to have 


rendered transparent. Suddenly streamers of light flashed between the 
statues. In the depths of the park thousands of rockets burst with a 
noise like thunder. The fountains flared like craters of volcanoes. As the 
din increased the crowd grew panicky. Terrified women ran for refuge 
into the trees and the grottoes. The whole park of Versailles seemed 
aflame. The canals and the lakes crimsoned with the reflection of the 

Mighty rockets pierced the night sky like bolts of lighming or striped 
it with ribbons of fire. Others streaked across it like the tails of comets 
or wriggled like giant caterpillars. Finally, at the moment when from 
all points on the horizon the paths of the rockets made a grand arch, 
there appeared floating in the air like dazzling butterflies an ‘U and 
an *M\ the initials of the King and Queen, until the night breezes 
wafted them slowly away in the ruby smoke of the vanishing fairy- 

The last rosy lights of the fete mingled with the dawn tints of the 
eastern sky. Louis XIV gave the order to return to Saint-Germain. The 
weary courtiers followed him on horseback or in coaches. Everyone vied 
to see who could best describe this fete as the grandest since the world 


It was a fete Angelique would long remember. She had had two 
romantic strolls along the dark garden paths, had seen an illumina- 
tion that still dazzled her, and might yet be floating on a golden cloud 
if it were not for an aftertaste of anxiety that gave a bitter flavour to 
her otherwise pleasant memories. Such was Angelique’s state of mind 
the morning after that night at Versailles. 

And in her wandering thoughts there gnawed one minor worry which 
curiously came to the foreground. - the round face of little Cantor, 
whom Vivonne wanted as a page. 

‘That’s the first thing to settle/ Angelique said to herself, rousing her- 
self from her daydreaming. 

She got up from the sofa on which she was recovering from the 
fatigue of the night before. As she crossed the hall of the Hotel du 
Plessis, Cantor's voice drifted down to her from the upper floor: 

More luck than I, have you. Marquis, 

With a bride as fair as she . . . 

She hesitated a moment before the black oaken door. She had never 
yet ventured this far. It led to Philippe’s apartments. She withdrew, 
thinking her procedure not too sensible. 

The voice of the eight-year-old singing above of the extramarital 
affairs of Henri IV made her laugh. She changed her mind. 

La Violette answered her knock. Philippe was standing before his 
looking-glass adjusting his blue tunic in preparation for his departure 
for Saint-Germain, whither Angelique was to follow him later. She had 
been invited to one of the Queen’s parties, and supper afterwards. The 
courtiers spent litde time tending to family problems. 

Philippe showed no surprise at finding his wife in his rooms. He 
courteously invited her to sit while he finished dressing, and waited 
until she volunteered the purpose of her visit. 

Angelique watched him slip on his rings. He was choosing them 
deliberately, trying them on and surveying his hands critically. No 
woman could have taken greater pains. She thought, as she watched him 
concentrate on so trivial a matter, of how his coldness was really the 
result of vanity. What could she hope to get from him? Advice? It 
seemed laughable. 

Finally, to break the embarrassing silence, she said: ‘Monsieur de 
Vivonne has asked me to lend him Cantor/ 

Philippe merely sighed, and took off all the rings from his right hand 
as the array did not suit him. He went on poring over the open jewel 
boxes. Then as if suddenly remembering she was there, he said in a 
bored voice: ‘Oh? Well, my congratulations on such good news. Vivonne 
is rising in favour, and his sister Madame de Montespan can be counted 
on to keep him up there a long time/ 

‘But Vivonne is to lead an expedition to the Mediterranean/ 

‘More proof of the King’s confidence in him/ 

‘The boy is still quite young/ 

‘What boy? Oh, Cantor . . . why, he seems to want to go with 
Vivonne. What’s so remarkable about that? Vivonne spoils him, gives 
him candy whenever they meet. Still no eight-year-old should decide 
for himself. I wonder . . / Philippe raised his eyebrows in an ex- 
pression of mock surprise. ‘Do you want him to have a career? 5 
‘Yes, but . . / 

‘But what?’ 

She spoke rapidly, her cheeks on fire. ‘Vivonne has a bad reputa- 
tion. He was one of Monsieur’s gang, and everyone knows what that 
means. I should not like to entrust my son to a man who might corrupt 

The Marquis du Plessis had put on a huge solitaire diamond ring 
and two smaller ones. He stepped to the window to see if they sparkled 
in the sunlight. 

To whom would you like to entrust him then?’ he said slowly. To 
that rare bird, a person of your morals, not an intriguer or a hypocrite, 
someone who has influence with the King and has received many 
honours from him, who . . . who just does not exist? Apprenticeship to 
life is not easy, nor is skill in pleasing the great/ 

‘He is so young/ Angclique repeated, 1 am afraid he will see things 
that will spoil his innocence/ 

Philippe snickered. Tor an ambitious mother, you have a great many 
scruples. I was barely ten when Coulmers got me into bed with him. 
Four years later, when my voice had hardly changed, Madame du 
Crecy wanted to sample a little springtime vigour and offered me -or 
rather forced me into - the shelter of her bed. She must have been forty. 
How do you think this emerald goes with this turquoise?’ 

Angelique said nothing. She was terribly frightened. ‘Philippe! Oh, 

‘Yes, I think you’re right. The brilliant green of the emerald dims 
the blue of the turquoise. I think another diamond would go better 
next to the emerald/ He glanced at her and snickered again. ‘Stop 
looking so worried. If you don’t like what I said, why did you come to 
me for advice? Either you don’t know or you are pretending not to 
know what a young nobleman’s education consists of. Let your children 
get started on their course of honour/ 

‘I am their mother. Honours are nothing. I cannot neglect their 
morals. Didn’t your mother ever think of yours?’ 

Philippe pouted scornfully. ‘That’s right, I forget we weren’t brought 
up the same way. If I remember correctiy, you grew up barefoot in an 
atmosphere of cabbage soup and ghost stories. In such an environment 
there probably was such a thing as a mother. But in Paris and at Court, 
it wasn’t the same for a child.’ 

Returning to his dressing-table, he opened some more jewel cases. She 
could not see his face, only a blond head which seemed bowed beneath 
an ancient yoke. 

‘Naked and shivering with cold/ he murmured, ‘sometimes starving 
. . . cared for by footmen or maids who perverted me . . . that was my 
life here in this very hotel I was to inherit some day. But when I was 
to be shown off, then nothing was too good for me - the richest clothes, 
the softest velvets, the most delicate laces. For hours on end the barber 
would work over my hair. Then when my part in the pageant was over, 


back Td go to the darkness of my little room and the loneliness of long 
empty halls. I was bored. No one took the trouble to teach me to read 
or write. I thought it was a gift from heaven to be able to enter 
Coulmers’s service. He liked pretty boys like me/ 

‘Sometimes you came to Plessis . . / 

‘Just for short stays. I had to appear at Court and revolve about the 
throne. The only way to get ahead is to be in evidence. My father, 
whose only son I was, wouldn’t think of leaving me in the provinces. 
He liked to see how quickly I was getting on. I was very ignorant and 
had hardly any personality, but I was good-looking/ 

‘That’s why you have never understood what it is to love,’ Angelique 
said as if to herself. 

‘Oh, but I have. It seems to me I have had many varied experiences 
in that field/ 

‘That’s not love, Philippe/ 

She felt a chill go through her, saddening her, and filling her with 
pity, as if she had seen some poor unfortunate deprived of the very 
necessities of life. ‘The death of the heart is worst of all misfortunes!’ 
Who was it had said that to her with the cynical melancholy of one 
who had everything? The Prince de Conde, one of the greatest lords 
by virtue of rank, fortune and renown. 

‘Have you never loved . . . even once ... or had any special, private 
feelings for . . . any woman?’ 

‘Yes . . . My old nurse, probably. But that was a long time ago/ 

Angelique did not even smile. She stared at him seriously, her hands 
clasped in her lap. 

‘That feeling/ she murmured, ‘that can give one a sense of all the 
grandeur of creation, the sweetness of all fleeting dreams, the elation 
and power of living . . / 

‘You are very eloquent. No, I swear I don’t think I have ever known 
such a transport of feeling. . . . But I can see what you mean. Once I 
held her hand . . . but then the dream fled/ 

His eyes were half shut. His sleek face, the suspicion of a smile on 
his lips, his enigmatic expression, made him seem like a stone effigy 
on the tomb of a king. Never had he seemed so far away from her as 
now, when perhaps he had never before been so close to her. 

‘It was at Plessis. I was sixteen and my father had just bought me a 
regiment. We were in the country to recruit it. At a party I met a girl 
the same age as I, but in my jaundiced eyes only a child. She was 
wearing a grey dress with blue bows on its bodice. I was ashamed when 
they told me she was my cousin. But when I took her hand to dance I 


felt it tremble in mine, and then I experienced a new and wonderful 4 
sensation. Up until then it was I who had trembled before the imperious 
desire of mature women or the teasing flirtatiousness of the young 
minxes at Court. This girl baffled me. The look of admiration in her 
eyes was balm to my soul, an intoxicating draught. Suddenly I realised 
I was a man, not some plaything; a master, not a servant. Then I 
introduced her jokingly to my friends: “This is,” I said, “the Baroness 
of the Doleful Garb.” She ran away. I looked at my empty hand, and 
was desolate. The same feeling as when I had caught a bird I wanted 
to make a pet of, and it flew out of my grasp. The sun went out of the 
sky. I wanted to find her again and calm her anger and see her radiant 
face once more. But I didn’t know how, because none of the women 
who had initiated me into the art of love had ever taught me how to 
woo a sullen lass. As I searched for her I picked a fruit to give her. 
... It was an apple, I think, as pink and golden as her cheeks. I 
looked for her all through the gardens, but I never found her that 
evening . . .’ 

'What would have happened if we had found each other that 
evening?’ Angelique thought 'We would have looked at each other 
shyly ... he would have offered me the apple, and we would have 
walked in the moonlight, holding hands . . .’ 

Just a blond boy and a blonde girl in the rustling paths of the park 
where the does of the forest of Nieul came to feed . . . just a boy and a 
girl ecstatically happy, happy as only sixteen-year-olds can be, wanting 
to swoon to death as they kiss in a long embrace in the dark. . . . Her 
life might have taken a far different course. 

'And did you never find that girl again?’ she asked aloud with a 

'Yes. Much later. Just to show how strange the illusions, the first 
passions, of youth are, she had become mean and hard and grasping, 
more dangerous than all the others . . .’ 

He stretched out his hands, the fingers spread. 'What do you think 
of my rings now? Perfect, eh?’ 

Yes, I suppose so. But a single ring on the little finger is more subde, 

'You are right.’ 

He took off the superfluous rings and put them back into their boxes, 
then rang for a footman to go for Cantor. 

WHien the boy appeared, Angelique and Philippe were facing each 
other silently. Cantor had .a way of walking all his own. He was trying 
to make his spurs click, for he had just returned, from his riding 


lesson. That was the only reason he did not have his inseparable guitar 
with him. 

‘Well, sir/ Philippe said humorously, ‘you look as if you were setting 
out for war/ 

The boy’s sober face lit up. ‘Has Monsieur de Vivonne told you our 

‘I see you like the idea/ 

‘Oh, sir, to fight the Turks! That would be wonderful!* 

‘Take it easy. The Turks aren’t lambs you can charm with your 

‘I don’t want to go with Monsieur de Vivonne just to sing. I want to 
travel. I’ve been thinking about it a long time. I want to go to sea/ 

A shiver passed through Angelique, and her hands fidgeted. She saw 
again her brother Josselin widi his eyes aflame, heard him whisper 
intensely: Tm going to sea, I am/ 

So at last the time had come for them to be separated! . . . How one 
struggles for one’s children, protects and shelters them, works so hard 
for them in the hope of enjoying their company, learning to know 
them . . . And then when that day arrives, whisk, they’re already 
grown up and gone. 

Cantor’s eyes were steady. He knew where he wanted, to go. 

‘Cantor no longer needs me/ she said to herself. ‘I know him, he’s 
just like me. Did I ever need my mother? I used to run free all over 
the countryside, living life to the full. When I was only twelve I set sail 
for the Americas without once looking back . . / 

Philippe laid his hand on Cantor’s head. ‘Your mother and I are going 
to decide whether to let you have this baptism of fire. Few boys your 
age have the honour of hearing the cannons roar. You have to be 

T am brave. And I am not afraid/ 

‘We shall see, and we will let you know our decision/ 

The boy bowed before his stepfather and went out with great dignity, 
full of his own importance. 

The Marquis took from La Violette’s hands a grey velvet hat and 
flicked a speck of dust from it. 

1 shall see Vivonne/ he said, ‘and ascertain whether his intentions 
are pure in regard to the boy. If they are not . . / 

‘I would rather see him dead/ Angelique said fiercely. 

‘Don’t talk like a classical mother. That’s not the way of the world 
we live in. I rather think Vivonne is an aesthete, as infatuated with our 
little artist as with a gallant gesture. Cantor’s commission won’t cost 


you a penny. So, figure it out and have a good time.’ He kissed her 
hand. 1 must leave you, Madame. The King requires me, and my horses 
will have to gallop like wildfire to make up for my tardiness.’ 

Just as she had done the night of the fete, when he offered her the 
apple he had picked in the King’s garden, she searched his pale, im- 
penetrable face. 

‘Philippe, the little girl from long ago is always there, you know.’ 

Later, as she rode in her coach across the sunset-crimsoned country- 
side on her way to Saint-Germain, she thought of him again. 

She knew now that what had lowered her in Philippe’s eyes was 
precisely the vast knowledge she had of men. She knew all their 
vulnerable points and how to attack them with sure weapons. She and 
he could never meet except in the purity of heart they had known when 
they were young. They had been destined to meet at sixteen, still full 
of insatiable curiosity, the wonder of their innocence still unsullied, 
when their young bodies, overpowered by strange desires, could not 
touch without frightening them and shaming them, when so little was 
enough for them, such as the touch of a hand, a smile, the bliss of a 
kiss. Was it too late for them to rediscover this lost happiness? Philippe 
had wandered down evil ways. Angelique had become a woman. But 
the basic things of life were still strong enough in her to put forth new 
leaves, she thought, like the trees in the spring after their long cold 
winter’s sleep. 

And the spark glows. At the least expected moment the dead fire 
springs into flame. 

Angelique was in the salon of the Hotel du Plessis, inspecting it 
before the great reception she was to give for the leaders of Parisian 
society. It would have to be magnificent, for it was not beyond all possi- 
bility that the King himself would be present. 

Pouting and sighing, she toured the great room, dark as a well and 
furnished with the stiff pieces of Henri IV’s time. The two huge dark- 
surfaced mirrors did little to enliven it, and no matter what the season 
it was chilly - so dank, in fact, that the first thing Angelique had done 
after moving there from her H6tel de Beautreillis was to have her heavy 
Persian rugs spread over the flagstones. Their soft rose and white colours 
only accentuated the austerity of the oaken furniture. 

She was still inspecting it when Philippe entered to look for his 
decorations, which he kept in one of the many drawers of the writing 

Tm worried, Philippe,’ she said. It depresses me to have to receive 
my guests here. I have nothing against your ancestors, but it would be 


hard to find a more old-fashioned house than yours.’ 

‘Are you complaining about your rooms?’ 

'No, they are delightful/ 

'It cost me plenty to have them redecorated,’ he said jokingly. ‘I had 
to sell my horses to pay for it/ 

‘Did you do it for me?’ 

‘Whom did you want me to do it for?’ he mumbled, slamming a 
drawer shut ‘I married you, against my will, it is true, but I did marry 
you. They said you were fussy and difficult I didn’t want to have to 
suffer the scorn of a rich business woman/ 

‘Did you think of having me live here right after we were married?’ 

‘It’s the usual thing, isn’t it?’ 

‘Then why did you never invite me here?’ 

Philippe came over to her, his face a mixture of emotions, but 
Angelique thought she saw him blush. 

‘I thought things had begun so badly between us that an invitation 
from me would only bring a refusal from you/ 

‘What do you mean?’ 

‘You must have thought of me with loathing after what happened at 
Plessis. ... I have never been afraid of any foe, the King is my 
witness, but I would rather have faced the fire of a hundred Spanish 
cannon than you when I woke up that morning after . . . Ah, it was all 
your fault ... I had drunk too much, and you ought to have known 
better than to irritate a drunken man the way you did. . . You have to 
handle them carefully . . . You drove me wild. You were eating , / 
he shouted, shaking her, ‘eating like a glutton that night, when you 
knew I was ready to strangle you !’ 

‘But, Philippe/ she said astonished, ‘I swear I was scared to death. 
I can’t help it if I get hungry when I’m upset. . . . So you were attracted 
by me then?’ 

‘How could any man not be?’ he shouted furiously. ‘There’s no length 
to which you wouldn’t go to attract attention to yourself. You show 
up before the King without being invited . . . you get yourself attacked 
by wolves . . . you have children . . . love them . . . what else? 
You’re not short on imagination. Good lord, when I saw your horse come 
back with empty stirrups that day at Fontainebleau . . . !’ 

He moved swiftly behind her and forced her shoulders back till she 
thought he would break them. He questioned her close to her face: 
‘Were you in love with Lauzun?’ 

*No. Why?’ She blushed as she remembered the incident. ‘Are you 
still brooding about that, Philippe? I swear I was not, and I can’t 


imagine Peguilin making anything of it I was so angry at myself I 
wondered how such a silly thing could ever have occurred. It was just 
one of those things that happen at a party - too much to drink, too 
much irresponsible talk, a little resentment You were so hard-hearted, 
so indifferent. You acted as if the only use you had for me as a wife was 
to hurt me and threaten me. I had made myself beautiful for nothing. 
. . . I’m only a woman, Philippe 1 

'Being scorned is the only thing a woman cannot stand. It gnaws at 
her heart, destroys her whole being. She longs for tenderness. I was at 
the mercy of anyone who could be sweet like Peguilin. All he told me 
about how lovely my eyes were, or my skin, was like finding a spring of 
cool water in the desert. Besides I wanted revenge/ 

'Revenge? Oh, but, Madame, you’re reversing our roles. It was I who 
should have taken revenge on you. Didn’t you begin by forcing me to 
marry you?’ 

'But I have asked your forgiveness.’ 

'That’s just like a woman I As soon as they ask to be forgiven they 
think everything has been forgotten. It didn’t matter that I had for good 
and all become your husband under a threat. Do you think you could 
wipe out such an injury merely by asking my forgiveness?’ 

'What more could I do?’ 

'Pay for it!’ he shouted, raising his hand as if to strike her. 

But she caught the playful glint in his blue eyes, and smiled. ‘It 
would be a welcome penalty,’ she said, 'a lot different from the rack or 
hot needles under my fingernails.’ 

'Don’t tease me. I did threaten you, I admit, but I was wrong, i 
already feel that with the inconceivable magic of your sex you are 
hypnotising me the way a poacher does a silly rabbit.’ 

She laughed and leaned her head back against Philippe’s shoulder. He 
had only to move a trifle to press his lips against her forehead or on her 
eyelids, but he did not. Still his hands tightened on her waist and bis 
breath came faster. 

'My indifference is hard for you to bear, is it? I rather had the 
notion that our meetings were distasteful to you, if not downright 

Angelique laughed again. 'Oh, Philippe, with just one ounce of 
sweetness on your part, our meetings would have been enchanting for 
me. I had kept such a lovely dream in the bottom of my heart of the 
day when you took me by the hand and introduced me as "The Baroness 
of the Doleful Garb”. I was in love with you already then.’ 

'It is the duty of life . . . and of my whip ... to shatter dreams/ 


‘Life can build them again. And you can lay your whip aside. I have 
never renounced my dream. Even when we were separated, in my secret 
heart I . . .’ 

‘Were you waiting for me?’ 

Angelique’s closed eyelids were lavender shadows on her cheeks. ‘I 
was always waiting for you.’ 

She felt Philippe’s hands grow tense and febrile as they stroked her 
breasts. He growled, a low oath, and she began to laugh again. Sud- 
denly he leaned down and kissed her pulsing throat. 

‘You are so beautiful, so completely a woman ! ’ he murmured. ‘And 
I am nothing but a clumsy old soldier.’ 

‘Philippe l’ She looked at him in surprise. ‘How absurd can you be? 
Wicked, cruel, brutal, yes, but never clumsy. No, I won’t admit it 
because I never thought of you that way. Unfortunately you have never 
given me the chance to see how gentle a lover you can be.’ 

‘Other women have blamed me for that, too. Perhaps I fool them. For 
them to believe it, a man with the physical perfection of Apollo should 
be capable of . . . superhuman performance.’ 

Angelique laughed louder, drunk with the madness that was swoop- 
ing down upon them like a hunting hawk from the sky. A few seconds 
ago they had been arguing, now Philippe’s fingers were fumbling with 
the hooks of her bodice. 

‘Gendy, Philippe, for heaven’s sake. You’ll tear it, and it cost me 
two thousand ecus to have it embroidered with pearls. Anyone would 
think you had never learned how to undress a woman.’ 

‘Foolish precaution, when all you have to do is lift her skirt to . . .’ 

She laid her finger against his lips. ‘Don’t be vulgar, Philippe. You 
know nothing about love and you know nothing about bliss.* 

Then show me. Teach me what women like you do when they are 
waiting for a lover as handsome as a god.’ 

There was bitterness in his voice. She threw her arms around his neck 
in sheer abandon, hung there with legs too weak to support her. Gendy 
he lowered her to the deep soft pile of the warm rug. 

‘Philippe, Philippe,’ she murmured, ‘do you think this is quite the 
time and place for such a lesson?’ 

‘Why not?’ 

‘On the rug?’ 

‘Yes, on the rug. Soldier I am, soldier I stay. If I can’t take my own 
wife in my own house, then I have no interest whatever in love- 

‘But what if someone should come in?’ 


'What difference would it make? It’s now that I want you. I can fed 
how hot you are, how ready. Your eyes are shining like stars, your lips 
are moist . . / He stared fixedly at her cheeks flushed with exhilara- 
tion. 'Now, my litde cousin, we shall play together and have more fun 
than when we were young . . / 

Angelique gave a moan of surrender and stretched out her arms. 
She was in no condition to resist or escape the onslaught of passion. She 
welcomed it instead. 

'Don't be in such a hurry, lover/ she whispered. 'Give me time to find 
my heaven/ 

He grasped her passionately, found her, penetrated her with a new 
curiosity that for the first time made him conscious that she was a 
woman. Her eyes slowly closed as she yielded to her dream of love. She 
forgot to stiffen and there no longer lurked in the corner of her mouth 
that defiance he had seen there so often. Her lips parted as her breathing 
grew rapid. No longer was she his enemy; he gained confidence from 
her co-operation. Tenderly he explored her, and with the thrill of dis- 
covery he realised she was leading him to even more ravishingly mysteri- 
ous prospects. A hope was born and grew in him as her voluptuousness 
increased. The moment was approaching for their transcendent trans- 
figuration, for him to pluck the taut string of her tantalising woman- 
hood and make it sound with the glorious music so long denied him. 
He must be patient, so delicately exquisite a thing it was to do. Every 
inch of his virile mastery was aroused as he advanced towards a goal 
which did not retreat from him. He thought of how she had humiliated 
him and that he had never hated anyone more, but when he looked at 
her his heart burst with a strange imprisoned emotion that fought for 
release. Where now was the proud young woman who had once defied 

All at once he sensed her withdrawing from him like a frightened 
wounded thing, with helpless little gestures that seemed to ask his 

First quivering and then steeped in languor, rolling their heads from 
side to side gently and rhythmically as they lolled on the pillow of 
their golden hair, they separated slowly from each other reaching that 
dim floating region where two beings mould into one. 

As a long shudder shook her he knew that the moment was approach- 
ing when he would be her master. Each passing second exhilarated him 
more, instilling in him a sense of victory he had never known before, a 
conquering force that sprang forth sure of attaining its reward. He 
was the victor in a well-matched tournament, whose prize had many 


times before eluded him but which he now had won by valour and 
vigilance. No longer would he have to rule her. She was bent within 
his grasp like a powerful bow. 

As she yielded to him he felt the secret response of her flesh that he 
had awaked, and revelled in its delights. Then he succumbed to her. He 
knew it was this he had lacked all his life - his joy in her, the acknow- 
ledgement that the greed of his body could be satisfied, satiated at last, 
while she returned to life with great passionate sighs. 


He leaned on her bosom, hiding his face from her. Reality returned 
with the severe furnishings of the Plessis salon as Angelique awoke 
from her trance. Her moment of abandon had been all too short. She 
did not dare believe her own transports or the intoxication which was 
leaving her trembling and on the verge of tears. 


She did not dare tell him how much she appreciated the care he had 
taken with her. Had she deceived him? 


He raised his head. His face was still a puzzle, but Angelique was 
not mistaken. A soft smile spread over his lips. She put a finger on his 
moustache where tiny pearls of sweat had broken out. 

'My big cousin . . .* 

Naturally what was bound to happen did happen. Someone came in- 
a lackey announcing two visitors -Louvois and his father, the terrible 
old Michel de Tellier. 

The old man dropped his quizzing glass. Louvois turned crimson. 
Both retreated in confusion. 

The next day Louvois had to tell the whole Court. 'In broad daylight ! 
With her husband!* 

How could the wooers and admirers of the beautiful Marquise endure 
such an insult? A husband! A rival right in her home! Love in one’s 
own household! 

In high indignation Madame de Choisy repeated the entire length of 
the Hall of Versailles: 'In broad daylight ... in broad daylight!’ 

They laughed about it at the rising of the King. 

The King did not laugh so hard as expected,* remarked Peguilin. 

He was not the only one to guess the sovereign’s secret annoyance. 

*He is quite touchy about anything connected with you,* Madame de 
Sevigne told Angelique. 'He would like you to make up with your diffi- 
cult husband, but not necessarily exaggerate your devotion to him. 
Monsieur du Plessis is too eager to please his sovereign. Perhaps he will 


pay with a loss of favour for not having understood that certain orders 
do not require so complete an obedience.’ 

'Be careful of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament, my dear/ said 
Athenais with a sly smile. 'That’s the sort of thing they don’t like/ 

Angelique defended herself, her cheeks on fire. 'I don’t see what the 
Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament can find to blame me for. If I 
can’t receive my husband’s attentions under his own roof . . / 

Athenais tittered behind her fan. 'In broad daylight . . . and on the 
rug ! That’s the height of depravity, my dear. You could be forgiven 
only if it was with a lover.’ 

Philippe was equally indifferent to the jokes and sarcasm, possibly 
ignoring both as he passed haughtily by. If the King was cool to him, he 
did not seem to notice it. In the excitement of the last great fetes the 
King gave before the summer campaigns Angelique could not meet 
him herself. 

One thing was strange. Philippe had become cold to her again, and 
when she spoke to him by chance during a dance figure he answered 
rudely. She concluded that sweet moment of bliss which she treasured 
in her memory like a full-blown rose had been only a dream. The fingers 
of the world were tearing off its petals, and Philippe was just like them, 
crude and destructive. She did not know he was die victim of complex 
and uncustomary emotions composed of his own pride and the panic 
Angelique inspired in him. 

He did not know how to master her except through hatred. If he 
lost this weapon, he would fall under her spell. He had sworn never to 
let himself become a slave to a woman, and yet here he was lovesick as 
a boy whenever he recalled her little ways of smiling or looking at him. 
His former fears returned to taunt him. Confused by a life in which he 
had known more disappointments than rewards, he doubted he could 
have tasted so completely harmonious a physical union with one of 
those accursed beings that all women were to him. How could he admit 
that this was what they called love? Wasn’t it only a mirage? The fear 
of being deceived again tortured him. He would die of such vexation, 
he thought, and of regret as well. Cynicism was better, and rape ! 

Angelique had never imagined such torments could exist behind his 
impassive exterior. She suffered from his cruel change of attitude. The 
magnificent f£tes could not distract her. The King’s attentions irritated 
her, and when he feasted his eyes on her, she felt sick. Why did Philippe 
so neglect her? 

One afternoon when the whole Court was watching a play of Moliere 
in the outdoor theatre, she was overcome by a tremendous melancholy. 



It seemed to her that she was once again that poor, wild little girl who 
had fled from the mocking pages into the night at the castle of Plessis, 
her heart heavy with longing and spurned affection. ‘I hate them all/ 
she thought. 

Quiedy she left the palace and had her coach summoned. Later she 
was to recall this impulse that dragged her away from Versailles and to 
regard it as a presentiment. For when she arrived that evening at the 
hotel in the Faubourg Saint- Antoine, there was great excitement. La 
Violette told her that her husband had been recalled to the front and 
would have to leave at daybreak for Franche-Comte. 

Philippe was eating supper alone before two silver candlesticks in the 
dark-panelled dining-room. When he saw Angelique in her pink taffeta 
cloak, he knit his brows. 

‘What are you doing here?' 

‘Haven’t I a right to come home when I want?’ 

‘Your presence was requested at Versailles for several days/ 

‘Suddenly I thought I was going to die of boredom there. I just slipped 
away from all those unbearable people/ 

‘I hope you gave a good reason for leaving. Otherwise you will risk the 
King’s displeasure. Who told you I was leaving?’ 

‘No one, I assure you. I was greatly surprised to see all these prepara- 
tions. So, you were going to leave without saying good-bye to me?’ 

‘The King asked me not to talk about my departure, especially to you. 
He knows no woman can keep a secret/ 

The King is jealous/ Angelique almost shouted. Philippe would see 
nothing in it, and would not understand, or at least he would pretend he 
did not. 

Angelique sat down at the opposite end of the table and slowly re- 
moved her pearl-embroidered gloves. ‘That’s strange. The summer cam- 
paign has not begun yet. The troops are still in winter quarters. I don’t 
recall at the moment anyone else the King is getting rid of under the 
pretext of sending him off to war. Your orders seem very much like 
banishment, Philippe/ 

He looked at her so long without speaking that she wondered whether 
he had heard her. ‘The King is our master/ he said finally. He got up 
stiffly ‘It is late, and I must get to bed. Take good care of yourself while 
I am away. I bid you adieu/ 

Angelique raised her startled eyes to him. ‘Is that all you are going 
to say?’ 

He did not seem to understand the imploring look she gave him. 
Bending, he kissed her hand, and that was all. 


Alone in her room his little cousin began to cry. All the tears she 
had restrained since her childhood poured forth in a torrent, tears of 
despair and discouragement. 

‘I shall never know him, never understand him.’ 

He was going off to war. Would she ever see him again? Oh yes, he 
would come back, that was not what she feared, but the hour of grace 
would be gone. 

The moon flooded the room through the windows that opened on the 
garden, and she could hear the song of a nightingale. Angelique bathed 
her tearful face. She reminded herself how she loved the old silent 
house because it was there she had lived with Philippe. It was a strange 
intimacy, theirs, resembling a game of hide-and-seek. But there had 
also been those fleeting moments, as if stolen from the greedy world, 
when Philippe had sat by her as she nursed little Charles-Henri . . . 
conversations when they had laughed together as they watched him . . . 
the morning Philippe kept trying on rings as he listened to Cantor 
. . . that day such a short time ago when they had yielded to the 
passion of their bodies and had been seized with an ardour that came 
dose to love. 

She could stand it no longer. Quickly she wrapped her filmy white 
neglige about her, and ran barefoot to Philippe’s room. 

She entered without knocking. He was sprawled naked across the bed, 
and through the heavy lace of the bed-curtains she beheld his powerful 
chest smooth and pale as marble in the moonlight. His face looked 
different in sleep. The short curly hair he hid under his wig, his long 
lashes, his relaxed mouth, bestowed on him the serene innocence of an 
archaic Greek statue. His head lolling on one shoulder, his outstretched 
arms, made him seem defenceless. 

Standing at the foot of the bed, Angdique held her breath. His beauty 
touched her heart as she perceived details she had never seen before - a 
child’s chain with a crucifix hanging around the neck of this gladiator, a 
mole on his left breast, scars that attested to battles and duels. She 
pressed her hand over her heart to still its beating. He made a slight 
movement. Slipping off her neglige, she crawled close to him. How 
warm his body was ! The touch of his skin intoxicated her. She kissed 
his lips, moved his head until it lay heavy on her breast. He stirred, and 
half-waking, recognised her. 

‘So beautiful . , he murmured as his mouth searched her breast 
like a hungry infant’s. Then he was wide awake, rage in his eye. 

‘You? You here! What insolence ! What . . 

‘I came to say good-bye, Philippe, in my way.’ 


# A woman waits for her husband’s pleasure, not imposes her wishes on 
him. Stop it!’ 

He pulled back his hand to shove her off the bed, but she grabbed hold 
of it, beseeching him: ‘Philippe l Philippe, hold me close. Keep me near 
you tonight/ 


He freed his arm, but she grabbed it again. She could sense that in 
spite of all his efforts he was not unmoved by her presence. 

‘Philippe, I love you. Hold me in your arms/ 

‘What in the world do you want now?’ 

‘You know/ 

‘Have you no shame? Haven’t you enough lovers to satisfy you?’ 

‘No, Philippe, I have no lovers at all. Only you. And you will be 
away for months and months/ 

‘So that’s what you’re after, you litde whore? You have no more 
dignity than a bitch on heat/ 

He continued to rail at her, calling her all the foul names he could 
think of, but he did not repulse her. She crept even closer to him. His 
insults seemed to her the tenderest declarations of love. At last he 
sighed deeply and grasped her hair to lift back her face. She smiled as 
he gazed on her. She had lost all fear. She had never known fear, that 
was what had won him. Then with one last oath, he clasped her to him. 

There was a tense silence which for Philippe concealed his fear of 
impotence. But Angelique’s passion, the uninhibited joy she felt at being 
in his arms, her skilful love-making as she became the slave of the 
pleasure she partook of, overcame his doubts. The spark glowed, burst 
into flame. At the groan that betrayed the violence of his pleasure, 
Ang&ique knew she had overcome his reticence. 

He would not admit it. The time of their quarrels was still too recent. 
He still would lie to her. He wanted her to feel no assurance. 

‘Go away/ he said brutally as she lay beside him twisting his curls in 
her fingers. 

This time she obeyed with such sweet docility that he did not know 
whether to strike her or embrace her passionately. He gritted his teeth, 
struggling between his regret at seeing her go and his desire to keep her 
even till dawn, snuggled in the hollows of his shoulders, in the warm 
darkness of his body like a litde cuddly pet animal. A dangerous weak- 
ness! Pure madness! Happily the wind of batde and the whisding of 
the bullets would soon put an end to all this. 

1 86 

Shortly after the departure of the Marshal du Plessis-Belliere Cantor’s 
turn to join the army came. At the last minute Angelique wanted to 
renege. She felt dreadfully sad and beset by all kinds of presentiments. 
She had begun to write often to Philippe in Franche-Comte, but he 
never answered her letters. Much as she fought against it, this silence 
on his part depressed her. When would Philippe ever admit he loved 
her? Perhaps never. Perhaps it was impossible for him to love, or to 
perceive that he was loved. He was no thinker, he was a warrior. Un- 
consciously believing he still hated her, he was trying to prove that he 
did. But he could not extinguish the spark that had been kindled 
between them, or obliterate his participation in the voluptuous pleasure 
that had drawn them together again. Nothing, not even the hypocritical 
fanatics, nor the scoffing libertines, nor the King nor Philippe himself 
could do anything about that. 

Angelique tried to busy herself with getting Cantor ready to leave. 
She was seldom idle. And then Cantor went off, too. 

Angelique flung herself into all kinds of entertainments and scarcely 
had time to brood over her feelings that misty morning on which her 
little boy, in a veritable fever of anticipation, leaped into Vivonne’s 
coach with his tutor Gaspard de Racan. He was dressed in a suit of green 
silk that matched his eyes, trimmed with plenty of lace and satin bows. 
A big black velvet hat trimmed with white plumes confined his curly 
locks. His beribboned guitar kept getting in his way, for he hugged it 
to him the way children do their favourite toy. It was Angelique’s part- 
ing gift to him, made of imported wood and inlaid with mother-of- 
pearl, and designed especially for him by the finest instrument-maker in 

Barbe kept weeping in the shadow of the porte-cochere, but Angelique 
refused to betray her own emotions. Such was life 1 Children go off on 
their own, as everyone knows, but every step they take tears at the 
tender living bonds that bind them to their mother’s heart. 

With increasing interest she kept up with the dispatches from the 
Mediterranean. In their objective of aiding the Venetians against the 
Turks, who were trying to win this last bastion of Christianity in the 
Mediterranean, the French galleys were bent on a sacred mission, and 
the Due de Vivonne and his troops deserved the name of crusaders. 
Angelique smiled to herself at the thought of Cantor as a tiny cog in the 
mechanism of this holy expedition. She imagined him sitting in the 
prow of his ship, the ribbons of his guitar waving in the breeze under a 
cloudless sky. 

During her few moments of leisure in Paris she made an effort to get 


closer to Florimond. She feared he might miss Cantor, or be jealous of 
his younger brother’s opportunity to rise so rapidly and savour the glory 
of battle. But she quickly observed that although Florimond was quite 
polite about staying with her alone, he had a terrible time sitting still 
for more than ten minutes at a time. He had a thousand and one things 
on his mind - exercise his horse, feed his falcon, tend to his dog, polish 
his sword, get ready for a riding lesson or accompany the Dauphin on 
a hunt. He was not resdess only when his Latin lesson with the Abbe 
de Lesdigui£res was due. 

'My mother and I are talking/ he told his tutor then, and the Abbe 
did not dare to press the matter. 

Most of the time they talked principally about Master Florimond’s 
skill as a swordsman. Sensitive and delicate as he appeared, the boy 
had all the love of violence of children his age. He lived to wound and 
conquer and kill in defence of his honour. He was never happier than 
with a sword in his hand or at target practice. The Dauphin was too 
much of a hot-house plant to interest him. 

‘I try to liven him up/ he sighed, ‘but it’s no use. Between us, Mother, 
and don’t let it go any further, he gives me a pain in the neck/ 

‘I know, Florimond, I know/ Angelique admitted laughing. But his 
precocious knowledge of human nature disturbed her, none the less. 

She knew too that the Dauphin would have followed Florimond to the 
ends of the earth, so captivated was he by his fiery black eyes and his 
soldierly vitality. Florimond was indeed charming, attractive to every- 
one and, successful in everything he undertook. She suspected he was 
very conceited, as doubdess all children are. But she could see that he, 
too, was drifting away from her, and this made her sad. 

He pirouetted with his naked sword. ‘Look, Mother, look at me. I 
parry, I feint, and then strike home. Right in the heart. My enemy has 
fallen . . . dead!’ 

How handsome he was ! Joy of living had kindled a flame in him. 
Would he still come crying to her if he were in trouble or hurt? How 
quickly a child’s heart matures and hardens in the bright sunlight of 
the Court! 

The news of the batde off Cape Passaro arrived in the middle of June 
during the last fete the King would give before leaving to lead his 
campaign into Lorraine. Vivonne’s galleys had been attacked off the 
coast of Sicily by a Turkish fleet under the command of a renegade 
Algerian, nicknamed Resquater, whose exploits in the Mediterranean 


were celebrated. Vivonne had had to take refuge in a bay protected by 
Cape Passaro. Here he had given battle, but it was little more than a 
skirmish. Only two of his twenty galleys had been sunk. 

It was known, however, that there were a great many of his house- 
hold on one of these, and that Vivonne had been forced to see go to 
the bottom his three secretaries, ten of his kitchen helps, four of his 
footmen, all twenty of his choirboys, his confessor, his steward, his 
squire, and along with them his little guitar-playing page. 


Hardly anyone offered condolences to Madame du Plessis-Belliere, for 
the son she had lost at Passaro was still only a child. What could one 
child matter? 

The summer’s lull put a temporary end to the Court entertainments 
and allowed her to be alone in Paris with her grief. She could not believe 
the dreadful news was true, so unthinkable was it to her. Angelique 
absolutely refused to accept the horrible fact. 

Barbe kept bewailing her loss night and day until Angelique, out of 
concern for the old nurse’s health, ended by scolding her. 

‘Of course, Madame, of course/ she murmured between sobs, ‘but 
Madame cannot understand. Madame never loved him as I did/ 

Dejectedly Angelique left her alone and returned to her own room, 
where she sat by the open window. It was getting on towards autumn, 
and it had drizzled all day long. The wet street reflected the evening 
sky. Angelique covered her face with her hands. Her heart was heavy, 
so heavy she knew nothing would ever lighten its burden again. How 
seldom had she taken the time to hold little Cantor on her knees and 
kiss his apple cheeks ! 

His looks were still a mystery to her. Because he looked like her, and 
like her young Sanc£ brothers whom she watched grow up, she never 
quite realised that Joffrey had been his father. But the lively, 
adventurous, irrepressible spirit of that great Count of Toulouse had 
been inherited by the lad. Once more she could see him going off to 
war in his big hat, serious and yet delirious with joy. Or she saw him 
singing for the Queen, heard his seraphic voice: 

Farewell, my life; farewell, my love; 

Farewell, my hopes of things above . . . 


The sluggish clopping of a horse’s hooves below on the cobblestones 
of the courtyard brought her out of her memories. Unconsciously she 
looked out. For a moment she thought the horseman she saw mounting 
the steps was Philippe. But Philippe was with the army at the front in 
Franche-Comte, where the King had just gone. 

A second rider followed him across the courtyard and under the 
portico of the hotel. This time she made no mistake. It was La Violette. 
She recognised his giant figure, even though his head was bent against 
the rain. So it was Philippe who had just arrived. She heard his step in 
the hall, and before she had time to recover completely from her 
sorrowful thoughts he was with her, covered with mud up to his waist 
and for once looking bedraggled with water draining off his hat and 
dripping from his coat. 

‘Philippe/ she said, rising to greet him, ‘you’re soaking wet.’ 

‘It’s been raining since morning and I’ve ridden without stopping.’ 

She tugged at a bell-cord. 

Tm going to order you a hot supper. Perhaps we should have a fire 
built. Why didn’t you let me know you were coming, Philippe? Your 
rooms are being done over. I never thought you’d be back before 
autumn, and I thought . . . that this would be a good time for . . . 
some redecorating.’ 

He listened as if he did not hear her, his legs spread apart as she 
had seen him stand so often. 

‘I heard your son was dead,’ he said at last. T did not get the news 
till last week.’ 

In the silence that followed his remark, the daylight suddenly failed 
altogether as clouds blotted out what was left of the sun. 

‘He dreamed of going to sea,’ Philippe continued, ‘and he seized the 
chance to make his dream come true. I know the Mediterranean, blue 
and edged with gold like the King’s own standard. It will be a fitting 
shroud for the little songster . . .’ 

Angelique began to weep, her tears blurring Philippe’s image. He laid 
his hand on her hair. 

‘You hoped he would not be corrupted. Death has spared him the 
tears of shame that children taken unaware drop into their pillows. To 
each his fate. His was naught but joy and song. He had a mother who 
loved him.’ 

‘I never spent enough time with him,’ she said, wiping her eyes. 

‘But you did love him,’ he said. ‘You fought for him. You 
gave him what he needed to make him happy - the security of your 


Angelique listened to him in a perplexity which gave way to total 

‘Philippe/ she exclaimed at length, ‘you can’t make me believe that 
you left the army and rode eighty leagues over rain-soaked roads just 
. . . to bring me these words of comfort!’ 

‘It wouldn’t have been the first foolish thing you’ve made me do,’ 
he said. ‘But I did not come for that alone. I wanted to bring you a 

He drew from his pocket a kind of case made of old, shrivelled 
leather, and opening it, extracted an unusual necklace consisting of a 
green gold chain from which hung three discs of red gold mounted with 
two cabochon rubies and a huge emerald. It was a magnificent orna- 
ment but so barbaric in workmanship that it seemed designed for some 
mighty Druid priestess. 

‘This is the great jewel of the Belliere women, made to be worn across 
their breasts. For centuries it has given them courage. It is worthy of a 
mother who has given her son for her country.’ 

He stepped behind her to hang it about her neck. 

‘Philippe,’ Angelique gasped, ‘what does this mean? Do you remem- 
ber the bet we made one day on the steps at Versailles?’ 

‘I do remember, Madame. You have won.’ 

He parted her blond curls and planted a long kiss on the nape of 
her neck. Angelique did not stir. He had to turn her around to see 
her face. She was weeping. 

‘Cry no more,’ he said, clasping her to him. ‘I have come to dry your 
tears, not to make you shed more. I could never bear to see you cry. 
Damn it, you are a great woman!’ 

‘Mad with love, madl’ Angelique kept repeating to herself. ‘That’s 
what his giving me this necklace means.’ 

So he did love her. He had even confessed it with a subtlety that 
soothed her troubled heart. She took his face in her hands and looked 
at him tenderly. 

‘How could I have known the behaviour that terrified me so could 
ever conceal such beauty? You have the soul of a poet, Philippe. 5 

‘I am what I am, no more,’ he mumbled with humour. ‘One thing I 
know, though, and that is it disturbs me to see you in the necklace of 
the Plessis-Belli&re women. None of my ancestors could wear it with- 
out soon planning batdes and civil war. With those rubies on her 
breast, my mother raised the armies of Poitou on the side of the Prince 
de Conde. You remember that as well as I. What will you conjure up, 
now it’s your turn? As if you needed any pluck! 5 

He pressed her to him again, rubbing his cheek against hers. 

There are your green eyes staring at me as always/ he murmured. ‘I 
can torment you, beat you, threaten you, but you'll still carry your head 
high again like a flower after a storm. I can leave you crushed and 
humbled only to see you rise more beautiful and proud than ever. It 
has driven me crazy, but in the long run it has made me . . . trust you. 

I can't get over my astonishment at finding such constancy in a woman. 

I used to weigh the odds. Will she be true to me, I wondered. The day 
of the royal hunt, when I saw you meet the King's anger with a smile, I 
knew I could never win. At heart I was proud then that you were my 

He pecked at her with his lips as if he were bashful. Unaccustomed as 
he was to shows of tenderness, he had scorned such demonstrativeness 
until now when he felt the need of it. He hesitated to find her mouth. 
It was she who sought out his. 

To her the lips of this man of war had the freshness of innocence 
about them. How strange that after the stormy life each of them had 
led, so spotted by the world, they could now at last exchange the pure, 
sweet kisses they had been cheated of that night in the gardens of 
Plessis when they were young. 

‘I must go back/ he said suddenly with his usual brusqueness. Tve 
spent enough time on affairs of the heart. May I see my son?' 

Angelique sent for the nurse. She came holding little Charles-Henri 
in her arms, swathed in white velvet like a falcon on a huntsman's 
wrist. With his yellow hair creeping out from under his pearled cap and 
his pink cheeks and big blue eyes, he was a gorgeous child. 

Philippe took him in his arms and tossed him up in the air and 
dandled him, but he could not get the baby to smile. 

Tve never seen such a serious child/ Angelique said. ‘He almost 
frightens people. But it doesn't keep him from getting into all kinds of 
mischief now he's learning to walk. He has learned how to turn the 
spinning-wheel and get the wool into a frightful tangle/ 

Philippe held out the child to her. T leave him with you, entrust him 
to you. Take good care of him/ 

‘He is the child you gave me, Philippe. He is very dear to me/ 

Still holding her baby in her arms, she leaned out of the window to 
watch Philippe mount his horse and gallop out of the dark courtyard. 
By coming home to her, Philippe had turned her bitter grief into living 
joy, even though he was the last from whom she expected solace. But 
life is full of surprises. How could she ever have imagined that this un- 
governable soldier who could put whole cities to fire and sword would 

ride four days through the rain because he heard in his heart the echo 
of her sobs ! 

A few days later Angelique returned to her hotel to find Monsieur 
de Saint- Aignan just arrived from Franche-Comte with a letter for her 
from the King. 

‘From the King?’ 

‘Yes, Madame.’ 

Angelique withdrew to read it in private. 

‘Madame,’ the King wrote, ‘our sympathy with you on the loss of your 
son who, however young, died in our service. This sad event leads us 
to take an even greater interest in the future of your other boy, Flori- 
mond de Morens-Belliere. Consequently we have decided to raise him 
to a more significant level and attach him to our household as cup- 
bearer under the supervision of Monsieur Duchesne, the First Gentle- 
man of the Wine Service. We hope to see him assume without delay 
his new duties while we are with the army, and we especially wish to 
have you accompany him on his trip to join us. -Louis.’ 

Angelique bit her lip as she stared at the imperious handwriting of 
the royal signature, wondering what to do. Florimond as cup-bearer to 
the King! The heirs of the greatest families of France fought for such 
a post, which cost them plenty. It was an unprecedented honour for 
insignificant litde Florimond. There was no question of her refusing it, 
but Angelique did hesitate about going with him. She hesitated for two 
days. Then she realised it would be absurd for her to refuse such an 
invitation which would give her a chance to see Philippe again and dis- 
tract her from her melancholy. 

She went to Saint-Germain to get Florimond. Madame de Montespan 
did not receive her, being still in bed as a result of the shock to her 
nerves which the Marquis de Montespan’s jealous rage had caused her. 
The whole Court was laughing about that incident. The few witnesses 
to it were not stingy with the details, and much as they might have 
wished to forget it all, they were prevented by the Marquise’s parrot, 
which kept screaming at the top of its lungs, ‘Cuckold! Cuckold!’ -as 
Pardaillan had termed himself. 

No one could, fail to distinguish these words, even though they 
sounded very much like the bird’s natural squawks. And they could also 
clearly distinguish, ‘Syphilis, you whore!’ The Marquis de Montespan 
had threatened to infect his wife with the disease. 

Even the servants couldn’t restrain their laughter in public. 


Madame de Montespan bravely carried her head high and pretended 
to laugh at the parrot to cover up her embarrassment But when she 
saw Angelique, she burst into tears as she asked what had become of 
her husband. 

Angelique told her that the Grande Mademoiselle had undertaken 
to calm him down and that for the time being he had promised not to 
make any more scenes. 

Athenais dried her tears ‘If you only knew how I suffer when I see 
him and that parrot catering to these guttersnipe! I have written to the 
King. I certainly hope he will be stem this time/ 

Angelique implied that she doubted he would be. She did not think it 
good timing to tell her she had been invited by His Majesty to visit 
the army. 

Her coach reached Tabaux at nightfall, and she went to the inn. 
She could have gone to the encampment, whose bivouac fires she could 
see across the fields, but she was tired after travelling for two days 
over the broken roads. Florimond was asleep, his chin resting on his 
rumpled lace jabot and his w T ig askew. He was not presentable. The 
Gilandon girls were asleep with their heads tipped back and their 
mouths open. ‘Swordthrust' Malbrant was snoring like an organ. Only 
the Abbe de Lesdiguieres looked the least bit dignified in spite of the 
fact that his face was covered with dust. The heat had been terrible 
and they were all frightfully dirty. 

The inn, they discovered, was full, for the proximity of the royal 
army had brought many camp followers to the village, but for the great 
lady who arrived in a coach drawn by six horses and with all her 
household the innkeepers put themselves out. They found two rooms, 
and an attic which suited the fencing-master. Florimond went in with 
the abbe, and the bed in the other room was big enough for Angelique 
and her two companions. They washed and sat down to a hearty meal 
of Quiche Lorraine and meatballs, Brussels sprouts with butter, and 
stewed plums, for they knew they had to eat well to get up enough 
strength for the morrow to face the King and the life of the Court when 
it was in the field with the army. 

The Gilandon girls had gone to bed, but had not drawn the bed- 
curtains. Angelique had got into her dressing-gown and was just finish- 
ing brushing her hair when there was a knock at the door. 

‘Come in/ she said. Then she gasped at finding Peguilin de Lauzun 
in the open doorway. 


‘Here I am, my pretty one/ 

He tiptoed in, his finger to his lips. 

The devil take me if I ever expected to see you I’ said Angelique. 
‘Wherever did you come from?’ 

‘From the army, of course. I had no sooner heard of your arrival from 
the village sutlers than I leaped on my fine horse . . .’ 

‘Peguilin, you’re not going to get me into trouble, are you?’ 

Trouble? Don’t be so ungrateful. By the way, are you alone 

‘No,’ Angelique said, nodding towards the Gilandon girls sleeping 
away innocently in their nightcaps. ‘What difference would it make if 
I were?’ 

‘Don’t be so touchy. My intentions are of the best, at least so far as I 
am concerned.’ 

He raised his eyes towards the ceiling like a stricken martyr. ‘I’m 
not here for myself, I regret to say. Don’t lose any time, but get your 
little virgins out of here.’ He whispered into her ear. The King is out- 
side. He wants to see you.’ 

The King?’ 

‘In the hall.’ 

‘Peguilin, don’t try to fool me. I’m in no mood for your tricks.' 

‘I swear . . .’ 

‘Do you really think you can make me believe the King . . 

‘Shh 1 Take it easy. His Majesty wants to see you privately. Can’t you 
understand he doesn’t dare be recognised?’ 

‘I don’t believe you.’ 

This is too much ! Hurry up, I tell you, and get them out of here, 
and then you’ll see.’ 

‘Where can I put them? In “Swordthrust” Malbrant’s bed?’ 

She got up and tied the cord of her negligee defiandy. ‘If the King 
is in the hall, as you say, then in the hall I’ll meet him.’ 

She went out into the corridor and froze to find a man standing near 
the door. 

‘Madame is right,’ said the King’s voice from under his grey velvet 
mask. ‘After all, what’s wrong with the hall? It’s dimly lit and, what's 
more important, empty. Peguilin, old man, will you please go down to 
the foot of the stairs and keep any pests away.' 

He laid his hands on Angelique’s shoulders. Then, remembering his 
mask, he took it off. It was the King indeed. He was smiling. 

*No, Madame, no curtsies, please.’ 

He folded back the cuffs of her dressing-gown so as to feel her wrists. 

and drew her gently towards a vigil light burning before an image in a 

‘I couldn’t wait to see you again.’ 

‘Sire,’ said Angelique with determination, ‘I have already told you 
I would no longer act as a blind, as Madame de Montespan so subtly got 
me to do, and I should like Your Majesty to understand . . 

Tou always keep saying the same thing, little toy. Surely you’re clever 
enough to think up another answer.’ 

Angelique was speechless. 

Tonight there’s no need for a blind or for any masquerading. Why 
do you think I went to all the trouble of disguising myself to come to 
see you?’ 

What he said made sense, but left her more at a loss than ever. 


‘Well, it’s very simple, Madame. I am not in love with you, but you 
don’t seem to realise you have cast a spell over me. I cannot forget your 
lips or your eyes, nor that you have the prettiest legs in Versailles.’ 

‘Madame de Montespan is quite as beautiful as I. And she loves you, 
Sire. She is devoted to Your Majesty.’ 

‘While you ... ?’ 

His greedy eyes which reflected the vigil light like two sparks of gold 
seemed to hypnotise her. When he laid his mouth on hers she wanted 
to draw back, but she could not. He pressed his lips against hers, forcing 
them open against her tighdy shut teeth. When he succeeded in making 
her part them, she yielded unconsciously to the power of this master 
who had no conception of what it was to be disobeyed. They kissed with 
a burning passion that consumed each of them, for he would not let 
her go until she responded to his lust. Finally she broke away, her head 
whirling. Weakly she leaned against the partition. Her lips were 
trembling from the hot pressure of his mouth. 

The King’s throat was tight with desire. ‘I have dreamed of a kiss 
like that,’ he whispered. ‘And of seeing you again with your head lean- 
ing back and your lovely eyelids shut, and your wondrous throat 
oulsing. . . . Shall I go? No, I haven’t the courage. This inn is secluded 
and . . .’ 

‘Sire, I entreat you not to lead me on further into something that 
horrifies me.’ 

‘Horrifies you? I thought you willing. I can’t have mistaken your 

‘What else could I do? You are the King?’ 

‘What if I were not?’ 


Angelique confronted him boldly, quite in possession of herself. ‘I 
would have slapped both your cheeks good and hard/ 

The King paced up and down in a rage. ‘My word, how angry you 
can make me! Am I so poor a lover as that?* 

‘Sire, has it never occurred to you that the Marquis du Plessis-Belliere 
is your friend?’ 

The monarch’s head fell in embarrassment. ‘Indeed, he is my faithful 
friend, but I do not think I am causing him any grief. Everyone knows 
that this Mars of ours has only one mistress - war. If I give him armies 
to lead to battle, what more can he ask? He cares nothing for love, as he 
has many times proved/ 

‘He has also proved he loves me/ 

The King remembered the Court gossip. He continued to pace like a 
caged animal. 

‘So Mars has yielded to Venus! No, I cannot believe it! But I must 
say you are quite capable of making such a miracle happen/ 

‘Suppose I told you that I love him and that he loves me, would you 
destroy such a new-found simple love?’ 

The King was struggling between his consuming passion and his 

‘No, I would not destroy it/ he said at length with a deep sigh. ‘If 
that is the case, then I must yield to it. Farewell, Madame. Sleep well. 
I shall see you tomorrow at the camp with your son/ 

In his uniform of blue velvet trimmed with gold braid Philippe was 
waiting for her at the entrance to the royal tent. Bowing, he took her 
hand to lead her, head high, across the crowded room to the lace- 
covered table where the King was about to take his place. 

‘Greetings, husband/ Angelique whispered. 

‘Greetings, Madame/ 

‘Will I see you this evening?’ 

‘If I can get away from my duties to the King/ 

His face was cold, but his fingers intertwined with hers and squeezed 

The King was watching their progress. ‘Is there any handsomer 
couple than the Marquis and Marquise du Plessis-Belliere?’ he asked 
his High Chamberlain. 

‘You are correct. Sire/ 

They are also charming and devoted servants - both of them/ the 
King added with a sigh. 


De Gesvres looked at them out of the comer of his eye. 

Angelique curtsied deeply. The King took her hand to raise her. She 
met his eyes, which roved from the jewels in her hair to her white satin 
slippers, not omitting her gown embroidered with nosegays of forget- 
me-nots. She was the only woman invited to dine with the King, and 
many of the nobles in his company had not for a long time had the 
pleasure of seeing so beautiful a woman. 

‘You are fortunate, indeed, Marquis, to possess such a treasure. 
There's not a man here tonight - including your sovereign - who does 
not envy you your good luck. We hope you realise that. The smoke of 
battle, the reek of gunpowder and the intoxication of victory have some- 
times made you blind, you must admit, to the charms of the fair sex.' 

‘Sire, there are some sights that can give eyes to the blind, and let 
victors savour other triumphs/ 

‘An excellent riposte!' said the King with a laugh. ‘Madame, gather 
up your laurels/ 

He was still holding Angelique's hand in his, and with one of the 
winning gestures he managed so well and used freely in the informal 
atmosphere of the field camp, he put his arm about Philippe's shoulders. 

‘Mars, old man/ he whispered, ‘you have all the luck, but I am not 
jealous. Your loyalty means a great deal to me. Do you remember our 
first battle when we were fifteen, how a bullet knocked off my hat? You 
ran right up to the firing line to get it back for me/ 

‘Yes, Sire, I remember/ 

‘You were insane to do it. And you've done plenty of other mad 
things for me since.' 

The King was a little shorter than Philippe, and his hair was dark 
instead of fair, yet they were alike in the fine proportions of their 
muscular bodies which had been trained like those of all other young 
nobles of their time in gymnasiums, riding academies and their early 
apprenticeship to military life. 

‘The glory of arms may make us forget love, but love can never 
make us forget that we are brothers-in-arms, can it?' 

‘You are right, Sire.' 

‘Exacdy. Well, Marshal, that's enough philosophising for us soldiers. 
Madame, will you sit?' 

As the only woman in the company, Angelique looked like a queen 
as she took her place at the King's right hand. Philippe remained stand- 
ing to assist the High Chamberlain. The King kept admiring her profile 
as she bent over her plate, and the way her diamond eardrop cast 
prismatic hues over her velvety cheek. 


‘Have you put your conscience at ease, Madame?’ 

‘Sire, Your Majesty’s concern overwhelms me/ 

‘It’s not a question of concern, I’m sorry to say, my dear little toy. 
How can we fight love? There’s no compromise with it. If I cannot act 
ignobly, then I must act nobly. Any ordinary man in my position would 
find himself under the same obligation. . . . Have you noticed how 
well your boy fills his post?’ 

He pointed to Florimond, who was helping the High Cup-bearer. 
When the King wished to drink, the High Cup-bearer was notified by 
the footman. Then from a sideboard he took a tray on which a carafe 
of water had been set along with a full pitcher of wine and a goblet. 
Then, preceded by Florimond, who carried the taster’s cup, he 
advanced towards the High Chamberlain, who poured a little water 
and wine into this silver mug and gave it to the High Cup-bearer, who 
drank it off. Now the King’s drink was proved free from poison, and 
the King’s goblet which Florimond held as if it were a chalice, was 
filled. Florimond performed the ritual like an altar boy. 

The King complimented him on his performance, and Florimond 
bobbed his curly head in acknowledgment. 

‘Your boy does not look like you with his black eyes and hair. He 
has a swarthy, southern beauty.’ 

Angelique blushed, then turned pale. Her heart began to thump. 
The King laid his hand on hers. 

‘How sensitive you are! When are you going to stop being afraid 
of me? Can’t you understand that I won’t do you any harm?’ 

As she rose he gave her his hand to lead her past him. His touch 
disturbed her more than if it had been a calculated gesture. 

She returned with Philippe through the camp, where the bivouac fires 
burned red against the tents that glowed yellow from the candlelight 

Philippe’s tent was of yellow satin embroidered with gold. It was a 
marvel of military splendour, furnished with two armchairs of rare 
wood and a low Turkish table, around which were strewn cushions of 
gold brocade. A rich rug covered the bare ground, and a kind of couch, 
also covered with rugs, gave it an oriental atmosphere. The Marshal 
had been rebuked for such luxury more than once. Even the King was 
not so sumptuously lodged as he on this campaign. 

Angelique’s heart was touched at seeing it, for it revealed another 
aspect of her husband - the force of character he had to lead a charge 
against the enemy in his lace collar. Tonight on the eve of batde, 
there were rings on his fingers, his moustache was perfumed, his boots 

1 99 

polished till they shone. Tomorrow he would know all the sweat and 
filth and vermin that are an indispensable part of soldiering. 

Philippe took off his baldrick. La Violette entered, followed by the 
Marshal’s young squire. They set a supper of cakes and fruit and wine 
on the table. La Violette offered to help his master out of his uniform, 
but Philippe waved him away impatiendy. 

‘Should I have your maids sent for?’ he asked Angelique. 

‘I don’t think that’s necessary.’ 

She had left the Gilandon girls and Javotte in the care of the inn- 
keeper’s wife, and had brought along only Therese, who was rather a 
headstrong girl. After helping her mistress dress, she had vanished, 
and it seemed fruitless to go looking for her. 

‘You can help me, Philippe,’ Angelique said with a smile. ‘I imagine 
you have a few things to learn about such matters.’ 

She laid her head against him wheedlingly. 

‘Glad to see me?’ 

‘Yes, I’m sorry to say.’ 

‘Why sorry?’ 

‘I can’t put you out of my mind. I have known pangs of jealousy I 
never dreamed existed.’ 

‘Why? I love only you.’ 

He lowered his forehead to her shoulder without answering. In the 
dim light of the tent she seemed to see again the King’s lustful eyes. 

Outside a soldier was piping a poignant folksong. Angelique shivered. 
She must get away, leave Versailles and all its fetes. Never see the King 

‘Philippe,’ she said, ‘when are you coming home? When can we start 
learning to live together?’ 

He drew away to look at her suspiciously. 

‘Live together? Is that possible for a Marshal of the King’s armies 
and a great Court lady?’ 

‘I want to leave the Court and go back to Plessis.’ 

‘That’s just like a woman! There was a time when I used to beg you 
to go back to Plessis and you would rather have been hacked to pieces 
than obey me. Now it’s too late.’ 

‘What do you mean?’ 

You have important obligations the King has graciously given you. 
It would greatly displease him if you did not fulfil them.’ 

‘It’s because of the King that I want to go away, Philippe. The 
King . . 

She looked at him glassily, as if he had suddenly vanished. 


The King/ she repeated desperately. 

Daring to go no further, she began to undress herself mechanically. 
Philippe seemed lost in a dream. 

'After what the King said tonight, he will understand/ she thought, 
'if he has not already understood ... for a long time . . . even before 
I myself did/ 

He came over to the couch where she was kneeling while she un- 
pinned her hair. She put her arms around his neck. His hands sought 
the yielding flesh of her naked body under her filmy shift, stroking 
the warm soft hollow of her back, then returning to her swelling breasts, 
heavier since her last baby but still firm and pointed. 

'Fit for a King indeed/ he said. 

'Philippe!’ She clasped him close. 'Philippe!’ 

There was a long moment of silence between them as if they were in 
the grip of some indescribable fear. 

Outside someone was calling: 'Marshal! Marshal!’ 

Philippe stepped to the entrance to the tent. 

They’ve just caught a spy. His Majesty needs you/ 

'Don’t go, Philippe/ Angelique begged. 

That would be a fine thing, not to go when the King calls me/ he 
chuckled. 'War is war, my dear. My first duty is with the enemies of 
His Majesty/ 

He smoothed his moustache and buckled on his sword again. 

'What was that song Cantor used to sing? Ah, yes . . . 

'Farewell, my life; farewell, my love; 

Farewell, my hopes of things above. 

Serve we must our lord, the King, 

Even to our long parting/ 

She waited for him in vain through the long night until finally she 
fell asleep on the couch. When she awoke daylight was filtering through 
the yellow silk walls of the tent, leading her to believe the sun was 
shining. But when she went outside it was a grey, foggy morning. It 
had rained, and the puddles reflected the dark clouds. The muddy 
camp was half deserted. From the distance came the drum-roll of 
reveille, and the ceaseless firing of cannon. 

At her request 'Swordthrust’ Malbrant brought her her saddle horse. 
A soldier showed her the road to a knoll. 

‘From up there, Madame, you can see all the manoeuvres/ 

On the hill she found Salnove, who had disposed his troops on the 


edge of a cliff. At the right a windmill slowly revolved its sails. The 
sun was trying to pierce the heavy clouds. 

Angelique recognised the picture now familiar to her of a besieged 
town with its girdle of ramparts like slate roofs, its peaked bell-towers 
and gothic spires. A pretty litde river wound around it like a white 

The French batteries were ranged above the river valley. Three rows 
of cannon protected the infantry whose helmets and lance-tips sparkled 
in the sun. With his riding-crop Salnove pointed out to Angelique a 
brightly uniformed troop parading before the lines. 

The King himself went to the outposts early this morning. He is 
convinced the garrison will soon surrender. Neither His Majesty nor 
his chief officers had a moment of sleep all night long. A spy was 
caught, and they found out from him that the garrison would try to 
attack during the night. That may have been what they intended, 
but we were on guard and they had to abandon the plan. It won’t be 
long before they surrender.’ 

‘But the bombardment seems very heavy to me.’ 

‘These are their last rounds. The governor cannot raise the white 
flag until he has exhausted all his ammunition first.’ 

‘That is just what my husband said last night,’ Angelique said. 

‘I am glad he shares my opinion. The Marshal has a fine sense of 
strategy. I do believe we can have a victory banquet in the town 

A courier they had seen a while ago galloped around a bend in the 
road. As he passed, he shouted: ‘Monsieur du Plessis-Belliere is . . .’ 

When he saw Angelique he stopped, yanked on his reins and returned. 

‘What’s the matter? What’s happened?’ she asked fearfully. ‘Has 
something happened to my husband?’ 


‘What is it,’ demaned Salnove. ‘What happened to the Marshal? 
Speak up, man. Is the Marshal wounded?’ 

‘Yes’, panted the ensign, ‘but not seriously. The King is with him. 
The Marshal took a great risk and . . 

Angelique had already spurred her horse down the path from the 
hilltop. Again and again she almost broke her neck before she reached 
the bottom. Once there, she let the reins hang loose on the horse’s neck 
and whipped him across the plain. 

Philippe wounded I A voice kept repeating inside her: ‘I knew it. I 
knew this would happen.’ She drew near the walls, past the firing 
camion and the pikes of the squared-off infantry like a portcullis, but 


she saw only the distant knot of lace-trimmed uniforms gathered near 
the front row of cannon. 

As she approached, Peguilin de Lauzun came to meet her. She 
shouted to him: Is Philippe wounded?' 


When she reached him, he told her: ‘Your husband took a terrible 
risk. The King wanted to know whether a pretended assault would 
hasten the town’s surrender, and Monsieur du Plessis said he would 
reconnoitre. He rode right up on to the escarpment which had been 
swept by continuous cannon fire ever since daybreak.’ 

Ts it serious?’ 


Angelique noticed that Peguilin had stopped his horse directly across 
and in front of hers so as to prevent her from moving forward. Her 
shoulders sagged under a leaden weight, and a deathly chill crept over 

‘He’s dead, isn’t he?’ 

Peguilin bent his head forward. 

T,et me by,’ she said tonelessly. ‘I want to see him.’ 

Peguilin did not move. 

‘Let me by,’ Angelique screamed. ‘He is my husband. I have a 
right to see him.’ 

Peguilin pressed her forehead to his chest, stroking her hair sympa- 
thetically. ‘Better not, my darling,’ he murmured. ‘Alas, our handsome 
Marquis . . . had his head blown off by a cannon ball.’ 

She wept hopelessly, sprawled face-down on the couch where she 
had waited in vain for Philippe the previous night. She refused all com- 
fort, would not let anyone near her. Her entire suite stood outside the 
tent terrified by the sound of her sobbing. She kept telling herself it 
wasn’t true, yet she already knew she would never see him again. 
Nevermore could she clasp him to her heart, never stroke his forehead 
like a mother, as she had dreamed she might, nevermore kiss his long- 
lashed eyelids, now closed for ever, and whisper, ‘I loved you . . . you 
were the first I ever loved in the fresh ardour of my youth.’ 

Philippe! Philippe in pink. Philippe in blue. Philippe in snowy white 
and gold, with his blond wig and his red heels. Philippe with his hand 
on little Cantor’s head . . . With the hunting knife in one hand and 
the other grasping the throat of the savage wolf. Philippe du Plessis- 
Belliere, so handsome even the King called him Mars, had him im- 

mortalised as such by the painter’s art on a ceiling of Versailles in a 
chariot drawn by wolves. 

Why was he no longer by her side? Why had he vanished in a ‘puff 
of wind’, as Ninon said. In the flaming wind of war? Why had he 
been so foolhardy? 

The words of the courier and of Lauzun came back to her. She 
raised herself a little. ‘Why did you do it, Philippe?’ 

The silken drapery at the entrance of the tent was drawn aside. 
De Gesvres, the High Chamberlain, was bowing before her. 

‘Madame, the King has come to express his sorrow.’ 

1 can’t see anyone.’ 

‘Madame, it is the King.’ 

‘I don’t want the King/ she shouted, ‘or any of that bunch of 
cowardly gossiping dandies he keeps around him who have come to 
stare at me all the while wondering who will be the next Marshal.’ 

‘Madame . . .’ he choked. 

‘Go away/ she yelled. ‘Get out!’ 

She buried her face in the cushions again, drained of anger, robbed 
of any power that might enable her to take up her life again. 

Two strong hands raising her stilled her frenzy. The one thing that 
could always comfort her was the support of a man’s shoulder. She 
thought it was Lauzun, and sobbed all the harder against the lapels 
of a brown velvet coat that smelled of orris root. 

Finally her passion of despair spent itself. She raised her swollen eyes 
and met the deep brown ones of the King. Never before had she seen 
so tender a light in them. 

‘I have left those . . . gendemen outside/ he said. ‘I beg you, Madame, 
do not let your sorrow overwhelm you so. You must rise above it. Your 
grief distresses me.’ 

Slowly Angelique backed away a few steps and leaned against the 
silken walls of the golden tent. In her dark dress and with her pale 
and streaming face, she seemed like a mourner at the foot of the 
Cross in some primitive painting. But her eyes, which never left the 
King, flashed like carbuncles, and with the same hard glaze. Yet when 
she spoke her voice was level. 

‘Sire, I ask your Majesty’s permission to retire to my estates ... to 

The King barely hesitated. 

‘I grant your request, Madame. I understand your need to be alone 
and quiet. Go to Plessis. You may remain there till the end of autumn.’ 

‘Sire, I wish to resign my duties.’ 


He shook his head gently. ‘It's the shock of your grief that makes you 
say that. Time heals all wounds. I shall not relieve you of your duties/ 

Angelique made a feeble gesture of protest, then shut her eyes. Tears 
stole from beneath her lashes, tracing glistening furrows down her 

‘Promise me you will return/ the King insisted. 

She remained speechless, motionless. He was afraid he had lost her 
for ever, and withdrew without extracting a promise from her. 

Versailles will be waiting for you/ he said gently. 



1/ /z^ J^TzVz^ 


A horseman galloped up the avenue under the ancient oak trees, turned 
to circle the pond that reflected the gold of autumn in its placid surface, 
and came into sight again at the miniature drawbridge, where he 
stopped to pull at the bell. 

Through the litde panes of her bedroom window, Angelique watched 
him alight and recognised die livery of Madame de Sevigne. This must 
be an envoy from her. Throwing a velvet cloak around her, she hurried 
down the staircase without waiting for the proper maid to bring her 
his letter on a silver tray. She sent the messenger to the kitchens for 
refreshment, then climbed the stairs again to her room and. sat down 
by the fire turning the letter over and over in delight. It was only a note 
from a friend, but to Angelique it was as diverting as anything she 
might have chosen for herself. 

Autumn was drawing to a close, and soon winter would be upon her. 
Lord knows, the winters at Plessis were dreary! The pretty Renais- 
sance casde which had been built as a setting for summer holidays 
looked grim and cold now that the leaves were gone from the forest of 
Nieul. At night wolves howled at the very edges of the park. She 
dreaded the return of those gloomy evenings which during the previous 
season when she was nursing her grief had driven her half out of her 

Spring had brought her some peace of soul. She had ridden over the 
fields on horseback, but gradually the condition of the countryside came 
to depress her. The war weighed heavily on the peasants, and the sullen 
Poitevins talked of drowning the tax-collectors. If their poverty did not 
arouse them, then the arrogance of the Protestant villages, which then 
had the upper hand, stirred up a bloody fracas with the Catholic ones. 
There seemed to be no end in sight to this explosive rivalry. Angelique 
grew tired, of it all, and refused to listen to complaints. More and more 
she withdrew into herself. 

Her nearest neighbour was the county agent Molines. Farther off was 
Monteloup, where her father was dozing away what was left of his life 
with her old nurse and her Aunt Martha. She could hope for no visitors 
except du Croissac, a crude country squire who snorted like a wild boar 
as he paid his own kind of court to her, and whom she did not know how 
to get rid of. 

Impatiently she broke off the seals and began to read. 


‘Dearest/ the Marquise wrote, "If this letter contains a mixture of 
abuse and affection, then I leave it to your good sense to sort them out 
and see that they represent the deep concern I feel for you. I haven’t 
heard a word from you for months since you locked yourself away and 
never gave your friends the relief of comforting you in the dreadful 
trouble you have had. Ninon is as resentful of your absence as I am. 
Ever since I decided to have done with love, I have let friendship take its 
place in my heart, and now when I see my overtures useless and even 
repulsed, I find my life totally empty. 

"Well, so much for reproaches. I can’t go on in that tone. I do love 
you so. And so do hundreds of others, and not all of the male sex either. 
For your charm and your frankness have won you favour even with the 
very woman who might think you her rival. We miss you. No one 
knows how even to tie their bows without your advice, and fashion 
languishes lest it do wrong for want of your approval. So everyone looks 
to Madame de Montespan, who has as good taste as you and who does 
not miss you. In a word, she reigns in glory. Furthermore her husband 
has paid for his folly. The King gave him five thousand limes, and 
ordered him off to Roussillon for keeps. No one knows whether he will 
really stay there, but for the moment there he is. 

‘While I’m on the subject of fashion, I must tell you that Madame 
<Je Montespan dictates all the new styles. You probably will not be sur- 
prised to learn that all these have been made to suit her own. She has 
designed a skirt to be draped over hoops in front as well as in the 
rear, which is very handy for concealing one’s oudines at certain times 
and permits a good deal of secrecy. I’ll bet there will be a substantial 
rise in population now this is in vogue. Madame de Montespan is the 
first to take advantage of it. She has no shame at all, but she is more 
beautiful than ever and the King has eyes for no one but her. Poor La 
Vallifcre is only a ghost, condemned to remain among the living. The 
King is through with sentimental affairs, and has taken a mistress who, 
for better or worse, is more demanding but suits him better. How hard- 
hearted she is 1 Everyone says so, and no one can stand up to her or sur- 
pass her among the Court ladies now. I say “now” because you are not 
there. She knows it too. Every time she mentions you she says “that 
ragamuffin” . . .’ 

Angelique was so angry she had to stop reading, but since she had 
no one on whom to vent her wrath, she returned to the letter. 

‘Under her impulse Versailles has become a Land of Cockaigne. I 
was there Monday and never saw such wonders. At three o’clock the 


King, the Queen, Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle, all the princes 
and princesses, Madame de Montespan -in fact, the so-called Court of 
France - gathered in the King’s splendid apartments. The decor is 
simply divine. Madame de Montespan so surpassed everyone else with 
her beauty that all the ambassadors marvelled at her. Yes, she took all 
honours - and her jewels were like her beauty and her wit like her jewels. 
She is very quick, has impeccable timing, never uses cliches, and every- 
thing she does is so unconsciously appropriate that it’s as if she were 
speaking a language all her own and yet sweet to the ear. Everyone is 
trying to copy her admittedly. 

'She never goes out without an escort of bodyguards. When I was 
there the wife of Marshal de Noailles carried her train, whereas the 
Queen had only an ordinary pageboy for hers. Her apartment on the 
second floor has twenty rooms, whereas the Queen has only twelve on 
the third floor . . / 

Angelique laid the letter aside. Was there some ulterior motive behind 
the Marquise de Sevigne’s detailed description of Madame de 
Montespan in all her glory? Charitable as she was to a fault, the 
charming Marquise had always been hard on Athenais. She admired 
her, but she did not like her. 'Beware/ she had often told Angelique, 
‘Athenais is a Mortemart - beautiful as the sea and just as ruthless. She 
too will swallow you up on your voyage if you’re not chary of her/ 

There was a good deal of truth in her opinion, as Angelique had 
already learned to her cost. So why was Madame de Sevigne so in- 
terested in letting her know how the Montespan had triumphed? Did she 
hope Angelique would spur herself back to Versailles to fight for a posi- 
tion she had never had? Madame de Montespan was the favourite. The 
King had eyes for her alone. Well, everything had turned out for best 

There was a light rap at the door, and then Barbe came in leading 
Charles-Henri by the hand. 

'Our little cherub wants to see his mamma/ 

‘Yes, yes/ said Angelique absently. 

She rose and looked out of the window. Nothing was stirring in the 
black and white, sullen landscape. 

‘Can he stay here to play for a while?’ Barbe asked. ‘It would make 
him so happy 1 But, wait, it’s not very warm here. Madame has let the 
fire die down/ 

‘Put on another log/ 

The baby stayed near the door playing with a pin-wheel. He wore 
a long blue velvet dress, and there were white plumes stuck in his glossy 


yellow curls, which hung down to his shoulders. Angelique gave him 
a routine smile. She took delight in dressing him in rich garments, for 
he was indeed ravishingly beautiful. But why should she spend so much 
money on these clothes when there was no one here to see them? What 
a pity that was I 

May I leave him then?’ Barbe said. 

‘No, I have no time for him. I must write a letter to Madame de 
S6vigne so that the courier can take it back with him tomorrow.’ 

Barbe could tell from Angelique’s attitude that her mistress’s mind 
was on other things. Sighing, she took the hand of her charge, who 
followed her obediently. Once alone, Angelique sharpened a pen, but 
she did not immediately begin to write. She needed to think. A voice 
she did not wish to listen to kept repeating to her: ‘Versailles will be 
waiting for you.’ 

Could it be true? Perhaps Versailles had forgotten her, and things 
would be better off that way. That was what she had wanted, yet now 
she was sorry. Dejectedly she had come to Plessis to avoid some vague 
danger and out of her need for expiation in regard to Philippe. She had 
hardly paused at his hotel, where everything about the dark, sinister 
colours of the place reminded her of Philippe and his sad childhood - so 
handsome, so rich, and so forlorn. At Plessis she had enjoyed the 
flaming autumn colours and had beguiled her loneliness with her long 
horseback rides over the fields; but now winter was approaching, her 
confinement there depressed her. 

A footman came to ask whether she preferred to dine in her own 
room or in the dining-room. In her own room, of course ! It was freezing 
cold downstairs, and she could not summon the courage to sit alone at 
one end of the long banquet table laden with silver. She was twice a 
widow now. 

When she had settled herself by the fire before a table covered with 
little red casseroles from which fragrant odours rose as she lifted first 
one lid and then another to sample them, it dawned on her bitterly that 
she was turning into an old dowager in retirement. 

There was no man to laugh at the way she stuffed herself ... or to 
admire her hands which once she would have creamed and bleached for 
two solid hours ... or to compliment her on her coiffure. She ran to 
her mirror and studied her face for a long time. She was still mag- 
nificently beautiful. She sighed several times. 

The next day Monsieur and Madame de Roquelaure arrived on their 


way to their estates in Armagnac. They had made a detour to call upon 
Angelique and bring her a message from Colbert. 

The Duchesse kept sniffling from a cold she said she had caught on 
the journey, but it was only an excuse to hide the bitter tears she could 
not restrain. She took advantage of a moment alone with Angelique to 
confide in her that her husband had taken offence at her flirtatiousness 
and had decided to get her away from the temptations of the Court by 
shutting her up in their far-distant castle. 

"A fine time for him to get jealous/ she groaned, ‘now that my affair 
with Lauzun is long since ancient history. He hasn’t come near me for 
months. I’ve had a hard time. What can he find so interesting in Made- 
moiselle de Montpensier?’ 

‘She is Henri IV’s granddaughter/ Angelique said, ‘and that’s some- 
thing. But I can’t believe Lauzun would risk toying with the affections 
of a princess of the blood royal. He can’t be serious/ 

Madame de Roquelaure insisted that, on the contrary, he was very 
serious indeed. The Grande Mademoiselle had asked the King’s per- 
mission to marry the Due de Lauzun, whom she loved desperately. 
‘And what did His Majesty say?’ 

‘What he always does -“We will see” . . . He appears to be con- 
fused by Mademoiselle’s passion for Lauzun and the affection he him- 
self bears him. But the Queen and Monsieur and Madame were out- 
raged at the idea of such a marriage. So was Madame de Montespan. 
She let her indignation be known very publicly/ 

‘What business is it of hers? She is not of royal blood/ 

‘She is a Mortemart. She knows what is fitting and proper for a high 
rank. Lauzun is only an insignificant Gascon noble/ 

Toor Peguilin! I suppose you have no use for him now/ 

‘Alas/ sighed Madame de Roquelaure, and began to cry again. 
Colbert’s letter was another matter. Without mentioning the gossip of 
the Court, with which he had no concern, he begged Madame du Plessis 
to return at her earliest convenience and undertake some business that 
had to do with the silk industry which only she could successfully 
manage. Baktiari Bey, ambassador of the Shah of Persia, was at the 
gates of Paris. Colbert was anxious to negotiate a treaty through him 
that would improve the conditions on which Persian silk could be im- 
ported by France. 

Once she had read this letter, Angelique decided she could not do 
otherwise than return to Paris. 

From Paris Angelique went straight to Versailles. 

She met the King in the park, whose lawns were now covered with 
snow. Even though it was bitter cold, the monarch had not given up his 
daily walk. If the weather did not permit him to enjoy his flowers and 
trees, still the fine proportions of the structures and the graceful lay- 
out of the paths were more apparent in winter. He and his companions 
stopped before each of the new statues executed in marble as white as 
the snow or in painted lead whose reds, golds and greens shone more 
brilliandy than ever against the background of greyish bushes. 

Slowly the Court circled the Fountain of Apollo. The reflection in 
its ice-covered surface of the gilded group consisting of the god in his 
chariot drawn by six chargers sparkled in the sunlight, made it a true 
apotheosis of the day-star. 

Madame du Plessis-Belliere had been waiting in the shelter of a hedge 
with Flipot, her page, who carried the train of her long cloak, her two 
ladies-in-waiting, and ‘Swordthrust’ Malbrant, her bravo. Now she 
advanced towards the King and made him a deep Court bow. 

‘What a charming surprise/ said the King, nodding his head slightly. 
T am sure the Queen will be as pleased as I am.’ 

1 have paid my respects to Her Majesty, and she was gracious enough 
to tell me she was pleased.’ 

1 completely share her pleasure, Madame.’ 

After another courteous little nod, the King turned to the Prince de 
Conde and resumed his conversation with him. Angelique joined the 
King’s suite and graciously received the expressions of welcome she was 
offered. She carefully inspected every detail of the new styles, which 
even in these few months had made her own seem old-fashioned and 
provincial. Had Madame de Montespan influenced everything? Ange- 
lique had deliberately avoided greeting her, but Athenais gave her a 
dazzling smile and waved at her as if she were glad to see her. Angelique 
had to admit that Madame de Montespan had grown more and more 
lovely. Her radiant face, glowing from the frosty air, was framed in a 
sumptuous blue-grey fur as soft and glossy as if it were still on the 

All the furs, Angelique noticed, were very handsome. The King 
carried a big muff of the same fur as Madame de Montespan’s hood, 
hanging from a gold chain. Many of the lords and ladies had copied it. 
Angelique overheard Monsieuris falsetto voice discussing it with 
Madame de Thianges. 

‘It’s an absolutely divine style. I’m ready to do anything for the 
Russians who invented it. Did you hear they sent by their ambassador 


three wagonfuls of the most beautiful skins you could ever dream of - 
fox, bear, skunk - absolutely superb 1’ 

‘This means the end of those little muffs no bigger than a pumpkin/ 
he said, squinting at Angelique’s. ‘It makes them look mean and shabby. 
How did we ever get along with them? . . .Yes, mine is astrakhan. 
Aren’t all these kinky curls extraordinary? They look like the fleece 
of an unborn lamb . . / 

The group moved along the Royal Avenue towards the palace, whose 
windows the sun was speckling with golden glints. All the fireplaces 
were blazing because of the cold, and clouds of white smoke rose straight 
from the chimneys towards the blue sky. 

Thanks to these huge fires and to the braziers placed along the walls 
the temperature was bearable indoors. In fact, in the Salon of Venus, 
where the King’s table had been laid, and into which everyone was 
crowding, the atmosphere was stifling. In embarrassment Angelique 
hid her little muff ‘no bigger than a pumpkin’ in a corner. Her black 
dress looked out of place, too. 

She owed it to herself still to wear mourning for her husband, and 
resigned herself to it because black made her hair seem even brighter. 
But she had to admit that her costume suffered in comparison with 
others. Madame de Montespan had indeed begun to mould the Court 
according to her own lights. At last in a position from which she 
could have her own way entirely, she was taking the Court in hand and 
stamping everything with the seal of her imagination and her fastidious 

As she stood among the courtiers, Angelique observed her at the table 
of the royal princes, laughing and chatting, and giving everyone a 
chance to shine in turn. She was truly a great lady, with all the per- 
fection associated with high rank. Her new prerogatives gave her a 
unique elegance and sprightliness, and added to them was the fact that 
another royal bastard was expected in the New Year. Beside her every- 
one else looked second-rate. 

The Court had become gayer and less regulated, and although the 
protocol remained strict, the general behaviour had acquired the easy 
freedom of classic dancers about a smiling king. 

This was the day of the public banquet. The people who had gained 
admittance to watch the King dine, and who were now filing slowly 
into the Banquet Hall, beamed with pleasure at beholding their 
sovereign. Their delight was partially due to the birth of a second prince, 
Philippe Due d’ Anjou, who had arrived in September and who with 
‘Little Madame’, the Princess Marie-Therese, now ten months old, com- 

215 h 

prised the royal family. But they also took note of Madame de 
Montespan, so beautiful and so charming and such a bitch ! The trades- 
men, merchants, artisans, their noses red with the cold and bundled up 
in their thick coats, returned to Paris feeling greatly honoured by this 
glimpse of their ruler and his beautiful mistress. 

Towards the end of the meal Angelique caught sight of Florimond 
performing his ritual service to the King, his mouth set in concentra- 
tion as he filled the cup Duchesne was holding from the heavy silver- 
gilt ewer. After tasting it the First Gentleman of the Wine Service gave 
it to the page to taste, then handed the goblet to the High Cup-bearer, 
who poured a few drops of water into it before giving it to the King. 
While everyone else drifted towards the Salon of Peace after the meal, 
Florimond joined Angelique. He was excited and proud. 

‘Did you see me, Mother? Don’t I do my job well? I used to just hold 
the tray, but now I carry the ewer and taste the wine. Isn't that 
wonderful 1 If anyone ever tried to poison the King, I would die for 

Angelique congratulated him for having so quickly risen to such an 
important post. Duchesne told her that he was very pleased with Flori- 
mond, who was extremely conscientious about his obligations even 
though he seemed irresponsible. He was the youngest of the pages but 
the cleverest, what with his nimble memory, his tact, and his sense of 
propriety - a perfect little courtier, in fact I Unfortunately the question 
had arisen of removing him from the King’s service, for the Dauphin 
had never got over being deprived of his favourite playmate. Montausier 
had spoken to the King about it, and now he and the High Cup-bearer 
were discussing whether or not Florimond could carry on two assign- 
ments simultaneously. 

‘It’s too much for him,’ Angelique protested. ‘He must have time to 
leam to read.’ 

‘Oh, to hell with Latin! Let me, Mother, let me!’ Florimond begged. 

She shook her head with a smile and said she would think it over. 

This was the first time she had seen him for six months. Twice he 
had paid quick visits to Plessis. Now she thought his air of self-con- 
fidence and sociability made him even handsomer. Perhaps he was a 
little thin, for like all other pages he caught his meals on the run, and 
had little time for good sound sleep. She felt his thin wiry shoulder 
under his tunic and thought with great tenderness how wonderful it 
was that this lively, intelligent boy was hers. He, too, was in mourning for 

21 6 

his stepfather and his brother. As she glanced at their black reflections 
in the great gold-framed mirrors, a sudden sadness enveloped Ange- 
lique at the thought of herself as a widow and her son as an orphan. 

‘Versailles will be waiting for you/ the King had said. 

No, no one was waiting for her. In a few weeks an entire chapter in 
the annals of the Court had come to an end, and another was being 
enticed into being under the signature of Madame de Montespan. 
Angelique looked around her in discomfort. She was waiting for there 
to appear and dominate the crowd the handsomest of all the courtiers, 
so casual in his bearing as he jauntily carried his white-plumed hat - the 
Marquis du Plessis-Belliere, the great hunter, the great Marshal of the 
armies of France. 

But she would never see him again. The earth had closed over him, 
and the gap had long since been filled by the living. 

Angelique remained on the edge of things. Floriraond had run off to 
chase Madame’s nasty little dog. The Queen had left her apartments 
and was sitting next to the King, and around them was forming the 
semi-circle of the princes and princesses of the blood, and all the lords 
and ladies who had the right of the footstool. Mademoiselle de la 
Valliere was at one end; Madame de Montespan at the other. Still 
radiant, she took her seat with a great rusding of her full blue taffeta 
skirt. In her triumph over having at last achieved the footstool, she 
who had formerly been a Maid of Honour was being almost vulgar in 
attracting attention to herself. 

The footmen began to circulate with glasses of liqueurs, frangi- 
pani or celery tonic, rossoli, anisette, and steaming infusions of blue, 
green and golden herbs. 

The King’s voice rose: ‘Monsieur de Gesvres/ he said to his High 
Chamberlain, ‘kindly be so good as to bring a footstool for Madame 
du Plessis-Belliere/ 

Every conversation came to an immediate stop, as all heads turned 
in a single movement towards Angelique. She advanced, curtsied low, 
and took her seat next to Mademoiselle de la Valliere. As she reached 
for a glass of cherry brandy, her hand shook a little. 

‘So at last you have that “divine” footstool/ Madame de Sevigne 
called out to her as soon as she saw her. ‘Ah, my dear, I know what a 
wonderful feeling it is. Everyone is talking about it. I knew all you had 
to do was appear. Plenty of people were fooled, though, for it looked as 
if the King had just said a word or two to you when he greeted you. 
And so then, what a surprise! Oh, if I could only have been there!’ 

She kissed Angelique ecstatically. She had returned to Paris to see 

Moliere’s new play. Like her, many other guests of the King were 
stepping out of their coaches. 

Tomorrow another play, then a ball. The day after ... I don’t know 
what’s on the programme, but we’re to stay at Versailles all week. Have 
you heard the rumour that the Court may settle here permanently? 
Madame dc Montespan is urging it. She hates Saint-Germain. What did 
she say about your footstool?’ 

'My word, I don’t know.’ 

'She must have looked daggers at you.’ 

1 completely forgot to glance at her then/ 

'I can understand your preoccupation, but it’s too bad you didn’t. 
You would have got twice the pleasure out of it.’ 

1 never thought you were so naughty,’ Angelique laughed. 

Tm not, but I like to see it in others.’ 

They wormed their way into the theatre and squeezed into one of 
the rows of gilded chairs. 

'Let’s not get separated,’ said Angelique. 'After the play I would 
like to go back to Paris with you. We can chat and go over together 
all these hateful months of silence.’ 

‘You’re crazy 1 Versailles hasn’t just got you back only to lose you 
again. You must dine there all the time Their Majesties are there.’ 

There was considerable commotion around the door as Madame de 
Montespan made her entrance. 

‘Look at who’s coming,’ whispered Madame de Sevigne. 'Isn’t she 
gorgeous? At last Versailles has a real royal mistress of the order of 
Gabrielle d’Estrees and Diane de Poitiers. They were concerned in 
politics, were patrons of the arts, spendthrifts, wilful, their passions lay 
close to the surface and their zest for love had what it takes to dominate 
a man, even a king. We shall know dazzling days under her reign/ 

'Then why did you want to see me replace her?’ Angelique said. 

Madame de Sevigne hid her face with her fan. 'Because I pity the 
King/ Then she closed her fan and fetched a long sigh. 'You have 
everything she has, plus something she can never have. Perhaps that 
one thing is what gives you your strength. At least, it does not weaken 

The curtain had gone up while they were talking. Angelique paid 
scant attention to the opening lines of the play. She was brooding over 
Madame de Sevigne’s words. Pity the King? Such was a feeling it did 
not seem right for him to inspire. He had no pity for anyone, not 
even for the poor La Valliere, who looked thinner, sadder and more 
haggard than ever. The way in which the King forced her to appear as 


formerly, to be present minute after minute at the triumph of her 
successor, bordered on cruelty. Athenais openly scoffed at her. Ange- 
lique had heard her call: ‘Louise, help me pin on this bow. The King 
is waiting for me, and I'm going to be late/ It was an insensitive, cynical 

But the poor girl had obediently helped her. What did she hope to 
get by such humility? Did she think she could rekindle the love of the 
man who was still her heart’s desire? That was highly unlikely. She 
seemed to understand this since the gossip was that several times she 
had asked the King to let her retire to a convent. But the King would 
not grant her boon. 

Angelique leaned over to Madame de Sevigne. ‘Why won’t the King 
let La Valliere leave Court?’ she whispered. 

Madame de Sevigne was beginning to chuckle at Tartuffe. She 
seemed astonished, but she whispered back: ‘Because of the Marquis de 
Montespan. He could still turn up again and claim that his wife’s child 
belongs to him by law. Louise serves as a blind. So long as she has not 
been openly repudiated, it is possible to pretend that the favour of 
Madame de Montespan is only an ugly rumour.’ 

Angelique nodded her thanks and turned her attention to the stage. 
Moliere was certainly witty, but all through the play Angelique could 
not help wondering why Solignac and the great lords who belonged to 
the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament had seen red when the play 
was produced. They must have had a good deal of meanness and 
hypocrisy on their conscience to think they were being satirised by such 
a low-class, ignorant fellow as Tartuffe, whose swindling of well-inten- 
tioned persons hardly resembled their medieval asceticism. 

The King’s worldly experience kept him from being taken in by it. 
He knew that the true spirit of the Church was not being attacked in 
this comedy of manners, which put fanatics, who are useless both to 
God and to man, in their place. The King, who was a good Christian 
but no more, was the first to laugh uproariously at it. 

It was not hard to follow his example, but some laughed out of the 
wrong side of their mouths. The battle over T artuffe was not over. But 
the King, Madame and Monsieur, and even the Queen were on its side. 
There was long applause after it was over. 

Angelique found her two maids, Therese and Javotte, lighting the fire 
in her apartments. The ‘Reserved for’ was still on the door. 

‘Should I go to the King to thank him for all his favours?’ she won- 
dered. ‘Or would pretending to ignore his attentions be rude? Or should 
I wait until he speaks to me?’ 

She let the maids take off her black dress and put on another of 
pale grey embroidered in silver which seemed more appropriate for a 
state dinner. 

Mademoiselle de Brienne knocked at her door in a state of high ex- 
citement. ‘I knew that old alchemist would finally get you a footstool. 
Oh, please, please tell me what I must do, what I should promise him 
to get him to do something for me. How did he go about it? Does he 
put on an astrologer’s robes to work his spells? Did you have to take any 
of his powders? Did it taste terrible? . . / 

She kept pacing in such nervous agitation that she bumped into 
things and even knocked a few down. Angelique just managed to rescue 
one of her perfume bottles. The girl seemed quite out of her head. 
Her brother Lomenie de Brienne was said to switch from extreme 
sanctity to debauchery so regularly that people thought him crazy 

‘Calm down,’ she said, shrugging her shoulders. ‘He had nothing to 
do with it. I came here straight from my country house/ 

‘Then, was it old Malvoisin who helped you? They say she is very 
powerful, the greatest sorceress of all time. But I don’t dare go to her. 
Fm afraid of perdition. But if there were no other way of getting a 
footstool . . . Tell me, what did she make you do? Did you really 
have to kill a newborn child and drink its blood? Or swallow a host- 
wafer made of filth?’ 

‘Don’t be so silly, my dear, you’re wearing me out. I have had nothing 
to do with that witch, at least so far as the footstool is concerned. The 
King awards that distinction to those he wishes to honour out of his 
own free will, and there’s no magic connected with it.’ 

Mademoiselle de Brienne bit her lips and clung to her theory. ‘It’s 
not so simple as all that. The King is not weak. He can’t be influenced 
to do what he doesn’t want to. Only magic could force him to. Look at 
how Madame de Montespan has succeeded.’ 

‘Madame de Montespan could turn any man’s head these days. 
There’s nothing magical about that either.’ 

‘She can’t manage the affair of the Persian ambassador,’ the girl 
replied. ‘It’s beginning to look as if he would return to Persia without 
having been received by the King. That would be a dreadful blow/ 

Angelique thought of Colbert’s letter. ‘Where is this Baktiari Bey?’ 

‘At Suresnes, in his sister Dionis’s country house. He likes the Turkish 
baths there.’ 

Angelique resolved to go there. She could get the lay of the land if she 
left early in the morning and returned by noon. She did not want the 


King to notice her absence when it was time for his walk in the 

She hastily assembled a suite composed of Malbrant, her tw'o foot- 
men and her coachman, and added Flipot for good measure. Such a 
retinue would give her prestige in the Persian’s eyes. Her four escorts, 
in her daffodil-yellow and blue livery, rode black horses. She herself 
rode her bay mare Ceres, whose coat had been curried till it shone. 

‘I heard he was bringing a necklace of a hundred and six pearls for 
the Queen, and pieces of lapis lazuli as big as a pigeon’s egg/ Flipot 

Angelique looked at him suspiciously. ‘Keep your itching fingers in 
your pocket/ she said. ‘And try to sit properly in your saddle/ 

Flipot had not mastered the art of riding. He kept slipping from side 
to side and regaining his balance as best he could while his fellows made 
fun of him. 

‘Look, what’s going on over there?’ Flipot said suddenly. 

They had been following the high road that skirts Paris and leads to 
the west, and had arrived at a crossroad. In the distance a mob sur- 
rounded the mounted police with their pikes. 

‘I think it’s an execution/ said Flipot, who was long-sighted. ‘They’re 
going to stretch some poor wretch on the wheel/ 

Angelique grimaced as she caught sight of the huge erect wheel. A 
black-robed priest and the executioner and his assistants in red stood 
out against the bare branches that scratched the sullen sky. Executions 
frequently took place on the outskirts of Paris in order to avoid the 
rabble that would gather to see them in the Place de Greve. But this 
did not prevent the suburbanites and the villagers from crowding to 
them in great numbers. 

The wheel as a means of torture had been imported from Germany 
during the preceding century. The condemned was first tied to it with 
his arms and legs stretched to the rims and his body resting on two 
cross-pieces of wood like a St Andrew’s cross. On each of these deep 
grooves were cut where the knees and elbows of the victim were to lie. 
The executioner would crack them again and again with a heavy crow- 

‘We’re not too late/ Flipot cheered. ‘They’re just breaking his legs 

His mistress reprimanded him. She had decided to ride cross-country 
rather than see the revolting spectacle of a human being broken into 
pieces as the mob watched with morbid fascination. She spurred her 
horse out of the road and across the snow-filled ditch, and her servants 


followed her. But a litde farther on they heard the grey-uniformed 
officers of the mounted police yelling at them: ‘Halt! No one can pass 
until the crowd scatters ! ’ 

A young police officer approached and bowed. She recognised him as 
de Miremont from having seen him at Versailles, where he was 
stationed as a subaltern. 

‘Please let me pass, sir/ Angelique said. ‘I must proceed to an 
appointment with His Excellency the Ambassador of the Shah of 

‘In that case, allow me to escort you personally/ the officer replied, 
bowing again as he rode off towards the place of torture. 

Angelique had to follow him. He led her up to the front row near 
the platform where the victim was groaning horribly as the executioner 
pounded away at his arms and his pelvis. She kept her eyes on the 
ground so as not to see it. 

Then she heard Miremont's respectful voice saying: ‘Excellency, 
allow me to present Madame du Plessis-Beliiere, who wishes to meet 

As she raised her eyes she froze at finding herself in the very presence 
of the Persian Ambassador, who sat astride a roan horse. 

Mohammed Baktiari Bey had enormous black eyes framed in velvety 
lashes and eyebrows, and a glossy black beard framed his pale-yellowish 
face with its curls. His long-sleeved, belted gown of silver damask was 
lined with ermine, and was open above the waist to show off his corselet 
which was decorated with pieces of silver filigree. From his shoulders 
hung a long cape of pale pink brocade embroidered with seed pearls in 
arabesques and floral designs. On his head perched a turban of white 
silk in the middle of which a delicate red aigret sprouted from a rose 
diamond. Beside him and also on horseback was a little page straight 
out of the Arabian Nights, clad in bright coloured silks, a little golden 
dagger with an emerald in its hilt at his belt. He was holding a kind 
of metal vase from which issued, a long tube ending in a pipe. Three or 
four mounted Persians made up the Ambassador's retinue. 

The Ambassador did not even turn his head at the subaltern's intro- 
duction, but kept his eyes fixed on the platform, intent upon the climax 
of the torture, while he puffed from time to time at his narghile. The 
smoke oozed out of his thick, sensuous lips in fragrant bluish clouds 
which kept their shape for a long time in the cold air. 

Miremont repeated his introduction cautiously, then indicated to 
Angelique that His Excellency obviously did not understand French. 
Just then a person Angelique had not noticed before came to their 


rescue. This was a priest wearing the black soutane, the wide belt and 
the crucifix of a Jesuit. He steered his horse up to Mohammed Baktiari 
Bey’s and spoke to him in Persian. 

The Ambassador turned on Angelique an empty stare which gradu- 
ally softened. He dismounted like a serpent wriggling to earth. 

Angelique hesitated as to whether she should offer him her hand to 
kiss, but she presently noticed that he was stroking Ceres’ neck and 
wheedling her. Suddenly he spoke a few words in an imperious tone. 

The Jesuit translated. ‘Madame, His Excellency asks your permission 
to examine your horse’s teeth. He says that is the way they tell a 

Somewhat annoyed in spite of herself, Angelique remarked that the 
animal was highly strung and did not like to be petted by strangers. 
The priest translated. The Persian smiled. He stepped directly in front 
of the mare and said something softly to her. Then he pressed his 
hands on her jaws. The mare shuddered but let him open her mouth 
and inspect her teeth without the least objection. She even licked his 
bejewelled hand as he stroked her afterwards. 

Angelique felt as if a friend had betrayed her. She forgot the torture 
wheel and the poor wretch howling on the platform. It was she who 
was highly strung. She was ashamed of her attitude as the Persian 
crossed his hands on his golden dagger and bowed to her several times 
as a mark of deep respect. 

*His Excellency says this is the first horse worthy of the name he has 
seen since he landed at Marseilles. He wants to know if the King of 
France has such a fine one.’ 

‘Whole stables of them,’ Angelique said shamelessly. 

The Bey knotted his brows and spoke angrily. 

‘His Excellency is surprised that, if such is the case, the King did 
not see fit to send him some as a present worthy of his rank. The 
Marquis de Tercy called on him looking very shabby and left again 
with his horses on the excuse that His Excellency the Ambassador of 
the Shah of Persia did not wish to follow him . . . then ... to Paris 
. . . and he says that . . .’ 

The torrent of the Persian’s words increased in volume. His inter- 
preter was finding it hard to keep up with him. 

‘. . . And he says that he has not yet seen a woman worthy of his 
rank . . . That no one has given him any presents ... or sent anyone 
to call upon him during the whole month he has been in France . . . 
and that the women he has had brought to him weren’t fit to be porters 
in a bazaar and were rotten with disease to boot ... He wants to 


know if your coming at last is some indication that His Majesty 
the King of France ... has decided to pay him the honour due 
him . . . ?’ 

Angelique's mouth hung open in amazement. ‘Father, these are very 
strange questions you're asking me!' 

A slight smile cracked the priest's stony face. In spite of his severe 
expression he was still young. His yellowed skin indicated a long stay 
in the Middle East. 

‘Madame, I can understand how much language coming from me 
might shock you. But I have been an interpreter at the Court of the 
Shah of Persia for fifteen years, and I must ask you to believe me when 
I say that I am translating exactly what His Excellency said.' He added, 
not without humour: ‘In those fifteen years I have often had to hear- 
and to speak - worse than that. But will you please give me some answer 
to pass on to the Ambassador.' 

‘Why, tell him . . . that I am embarrassed. I did not come as an 
ambassadress, or even at the request of the King, who does not seem 
to care very much about this Ambassador from Persia.' 

The Jesuit's face and his yellowish eyes hardened. ‘That is a great 
shame,' he murmured. 

He was obviously hesitant about translating her answer. Fortunately 
just then the howling of the torture victim grew more blood-curdling 
and Mohammed Baktiari's attention was again diverted from Ange- 
lique. While they were talking the executioner had succeeded in break- 
ing the victim's arms and legs and pelvis. Now he had tied arms and 
legs together and had stuck a spit through him in order to attach him 
to the axle of a coach that had been detached for this purpose. There 
the pitiful creature was to suffer for hours in the icy cold attacked by 
the swarms of crows which were already gathering out of the neighbour- 
ing woods. 

The Persian made an exclamation of disgust and renewed his angry 
flood of words. 

‘His Excellency is complaining that he missed seeing the last part of 
the torture,’ the Jesuit said to Miremont. 

‘I am sorry, but His Excellency was talking to Madame here.’ 

‘You should have waited until His Excellency could devote his full 
attention to the execution.' 

‘Offer him my excuses, Father. Tell him this is not the custom in 

‘Poor excuse!' sighed the priest. 

Nevertheless he began to appease the anger of his noble employer 

22 \ 

as if it were his duty to do so. The ambassador calmed down and his 
face lightened as he proposed a solution which apparently seemed to 
resolve everything so far as he was concerned. The priest said nothing 
until urged to translate, and then he did so reluctantly. 

‘His Excellency asks you please to be so kind as to begin again.’ 

‘Begin what?' 

‘The torture.* 

‘But that’s impossible, Father/ said the police officer. There is no 
other victim.* 

The priest translated. The Bey pointed to the Persians behind him. 

‘He says to take one of his guard. He insists you do. He says that 
if you don’t oblige, he will report you to the King, your master, who 
will have you beheaded.* 

In spite of the cold, beads of sweat broke out on Miremont*s forehead. 

‘What can I do. Father? I can’t just condemn anyone at all to 

‘I can tell him for you that your country’s laws absolutely forbid 
you to touch a hair of a foreigner’s head, no matter who he is, so long 
as he is a guest of your nation. We can’t destroy one of his Persian 
slaves even with his consent.’ 

‘That’s right. Tell him so, for heaven’s sake I* 

Baktiari Bey permitted himself a slight smile and seemed to 
appreciate the niceties of the French law, but he could not get the 
idea out of his head. 

‘Just what is the purpose of your visit, Madame?’ 


The Reverend Father smiled sarcastically. 

‘Father, I hope you are not suggesting that we torture and kill an 
innocent man just for the sake of pleasing some barbarous prince?’ 

‘No, indeed, but I must speak out against the discourtesy, the ill 
will and the clumsiness with which Baktiari Bey has been treated since 
he arrived in France. He came as a friend, but it is quite likely he 
will leave a bitter enemy and make the Shah of Persia irreconcilably 
hostile to France and, what is worse, the Church. If that should happen, 
we priests who have twenty-odd missions in the East will never be able 
to spread the Faith. These stupid blunders will set the progress of 
Christianity back centuries in these countries that are yearning for it. 
Now do you see why I am so out of patience?’ 

‘Such weighty problems have weight, I agree, Father,’ said Miremont 
in an utterly bored voice. ‘But why does he still insist on more torture?' 

‘The Ambassador has never seen this form of torture before. When 

he went out walking this morning he just happened to come upon this 
place of execution, and decided he must take home to the Shah of Shahs 
an exact description of these new methods. That’s why he is so annoyed 
at having missed a few details/ 

‘His Excellency is rather careless, I think/ said Angelique with a 

The Persian had remounted his horse. He looked at her in surprise. 

‘I must say I admire his courage/ Angelique added. 

There was a heavy silence. 

‘His Excellency is astonished/ the Jesuit said at last, ‘but he is aware 
that women sometimes can be much more subtle than men, and he is 
eager to know what you can teach him. So speak, Madame/ 

‘Well, hasn’t it occurred to His Excellency that the Shah of Shahs 
might be tempted to put this new machine to an improper use? For 
instance, he might decide that being so new and all, it should be used 
only for the torture of the great lords of his country. And he might take 
it into his head to experiment with one of the greatest among these 
great, his best subject, such as His Excellency here. Especially if his 
mission for the Shah of Shahs is not successful . . . 

As the Jesuit translated, the Ambassador’s face lit up. To everyone’s 
great relief he began to smile. 

‘Fouzoul Khanoum J* he exclaimed . 1 

Crossing his hands on his chest, he bowed several times to Angdlique. 

‘He says your advice is worthy of Zoroaster himself. He will abandon 
his idea of reporting this method of torture . . . His country has good 
enough methods as it is. And he asks you to go with him to his lodging 
for some refreshment/ 

Mohammed Baktiari Bey led the procession. Suddenly he became all 
charm and full of polite attentions. As they rode along he paid Ange- 
lique compliments, and it amused her to see the thin lips of the Jesuit 
uttering them as if he were saying his rosary - ‘tender gazelle of Kashan’, 
‘rose of Isfahan’, and as a final tribute, ‘lily of Versailles’. 

They arrived quickly at the temporary lodging where the Ambassador 
was waiting to make his formal entry into Versailles and Paris. It was 
a rather unpretentious country house surrounded by a garden and lawns 
dotted with a few pieces of rusty statuary. Baktiari Bey apologised for his 
humble quarters on the grounds that the owner had installed a Turkish 
bath in it, and so he could perform his ritual ablutions. The news that 
houses in Paris did not have such accommodation astounded him. 

At the sound of their arrival several other Persian servants appeared, 
i. ‘Little witch! She-devil!* 


armed with scimitars and daggers, and after them two Frenchmen, one 
of whom, whose towering wig somewhat compensated for his short 
stature, said acidly: ‘Another prostitute! I hope, Father Richard, that 
you are not going to keep this hussy here long. Monsieur Dionis does not 
want the sanctity of his home profaned/ 

1 did not say that/ protested the other Frenchman. 1 quite under- 
stand His Excellency’s need for amusement/ 

‘Tsk, tsk/ tutted the little prude, ‘if His Excellency wants that kind of 
amusement, let him go to Versailles and present his credentials instead 
of continuing this shameless delay indefinitely/ 

The Jesuit finally was able to get in a word and introduce Angelique. 
The little man in the wig turned all the colours of the rainbow. 

‘Forgive me, Madame. I am Saint-Amen, the chief of protocol, and 
the King has assigned me the duty of accompanying His Excellency to 
Court. Forgive my ignorance/ 

‘You are quite forgiven, Monsieur de Saint-Amen. I can understand 
how my arrival could have confused you/ 

‘Ah, Madame, pity me rather. I can’t get used to these barbarians and 
their haughty ways. I can’t persuade them of the need for them to hurry. 
Even though Father Richard is French and a priest as well, he does 
nothing to help. Just look at him smirking slyly there . . / 

‘You’re no help to me either/ the Jesuit snapped back. ‘It’s your busi- 
ness to be a diplomat, so why not be a little diplomatic? I’m only an 
interpreter, not a counsellor. I am in His Excellency’s suite by special 
appointment, and you can thank your lucky stars that you have me as 
an interpreter/ 

‘Your services are mine, too. Father. Both of us are subjects of the King 
of France/ 

‘You are forgetting that I am first a servant of God/ 

‘You mean of Rome. Everyone knows your Order thinks more of the 
Pope than of the King/ 

Angelique did not hear the rest of the argument, for Baktiari Bey 
seized her by the wrist and dragged her into the house. They passed 
through a vestibule decorated with mosaics, and into another room, 
followed by their respective pages. The Ambassador’s was still carrying 
his inseparable narghile which kept gurgling and belching smoke. 
Flipot’s eyes were like saucers as he surveyed the rich hangings, rugs and 
tasselled cushions of dazzling opalescent hues. Furniture of precious 
woods, and vases and goblets of blue pottery completed the decor. 

The Ambassador sat down cross-legged and gestured to Angelique to 
do the same. 

Is it a custom of the French/ he asked, ‘to quarrel in front of their 
servants?’ His French was slow but excellent. 

‘How well Your Excellency speaks our language I’ 

‘I have been hearing it for two months now - plenty of time to learn 
it. I have learned especially how to be disagreeable in it . . . and in- 
sulting. I am sorry, for I have other things to talk to you about/ 

Angelique began to laugh. The Bey stared at her. 

‘Your laughter is like a spring in the desert/ 

Then they both fell silent, as if they were guilty of something, 
as the priest and Saint-Amen joined them, each suspicious in his 
own way. 

His Excellency, however, did not notice their disapproving manner. 
He began to speak in Persian again, and ordered a light refreshment 
His servants appeared with trays of chased silver and poured a steam- 
ing beverage into tiny crystal glasses. It was black and had a strange 

‘What is this?’ Angelique asked a litde anxiously before raising it to 
her lips. 

Saint-Amen swallowed the contents of his glass in one gulp and made 
a horrible face before answering her: ‘Coffee, at least that's what it's 
called. I’ve had to swallow this stuff for more than ten days now in the 
hope that Baktiari Bey will reward my courtesy by consenting to get 
into a coach for Versailles. I’ll be sick before I get him to/ 

The fact that she now knew the Ambassador understood French made 
Angelique feel embarrassed. But the Bey showed no irritation. He 
called her attention by means of gestures to the crystal cups and the 
curious porcelain pitchers with their beautiful lapis-lazuli crackled- 

‘These date from the time of King Darius/ said Father Richard. ‘The 
secret of their glaze is lost. Most of the ancient palaces of Ispahan are 
tiled with it, and are over a thousand years old, but the newer ones are 
not so beautiful. The same is true of their gold and silver work which is 
so widely known/ 

‘If His Excellency is so interested in works of art, how he would enjoy 
Versailles I* said Angelique. ‘Our King has very sumptuous taste and has 
surrounded himself with marvellous objects/ 

The Ambassador seemed impressed. He asked Angelique several ques- 
tions in rapid succession. She answered as best she could, describing the 
enormous palace glittering with gold and mirrors, the masterpieces of 
all branches of art, the splendour of the silver unequalled throughout 
the world. The Ambassador grew more and more astonished. Through 


Father Richard he reproached Saint-Amen for not having told him a 
thing about all this glory. 

‘What does it matter? The greatness of the King of France is not 
measured by his luxuries but by his renown. The rest is just gewgaws 
which can be flattering only to very childish minds/ 

‘For a diplomat you seem to be quite forgetting that you are dealing 
with Orientals/ the Jesuit said drily. ‘At any rate, it is clear that 
Madame here has done more for France in a few words than you have 
done these whole ten days/ 

‘I see, I see ! If you, as a man of the cloth, are so familiar with the 
customs of harems, then I don’t see how I as a mere man of high rank 
can possibly answer you. I withdraw/ 

On this acidulous note Saint-Amen left. The priest followed him 

Mohammed Baktiari’s lips opened into a wide smile that made his 
teeth seem like a white scar on his dark face. 

‘Father Richard sees I need no interpreter to converse with a lady/ 

He carried his pipe to his mouth and puffed away at it without taking 
his dark, smouldering eyes off Angelique. 

‘My astrologer told me . . . that today, Wednesday, is a “favourable” 
day. And so you came. ... You I will tell ... I am uneasy in this 
country. Its customs are strange and difficult for me . . / 

He signalled to his drowsing page to bring them bowls of fruit sherbet 
and pieces of translucent Turkish paste. Angelique said cautiously that 
she did not understand why His Excellency should be uneasy. What was 
it he found so strange in French manners? 

‘All the . . . fellahs . . . the -how do you say? -the people of the 
earth . . / 

‘The peasants?’ 

‘That’s it. They watch me go by without even bowing. So insolent ! No 
one has touched his forehead to the ground. . . . Your King wants me 
brought to him like a prisoner ... in a coach . . . with guards at the 
doors. And that little man who keeps saying “Hurry up, we’ve got to 
go to Versailles” as if I were a sichak - 1 mean, a beast of burden like 
a donkey - whereas I think out of deference to your great monarch I 
should not hurry . . . Why are you laughing, oh lovely Firousi, whose 
eyes are like the most precious of precious gems?’ 

She tried to explain that there had been a great misunderstanding 
about everything. In France no one prostrated himself. Women curtsied, 
though, as she proceeded to demonstrate to the great amusement of her 

‘I understand/ he said. It's a kind of dance . . . slow and religious 
. . . that women perform before their lord. I like that very much. I 
shall teach my wives to do it. The King at last must think well of me 
since he sent you to me. You are the first person who has entertained 
me. . . . Frenchmen are terribly boring I’ 

"Boring !’ Angelique protested violently. "Your Excellency is mistaken. 
The French have a reputation for being extremely gay and amusing/ 
Angelique prepared to take her leave. The Ambassador's disappoint- 
ment was evident. She had to invent all kinds of explanations and 
metaphors to make him understand that in France women of a certain 
station are not considered as vulgar prostitutes, and that one could win 
their favours only by paying them court in a Platonic fashion. 

"Our Persian poets knew how to sing their praises/ said the 
Ambassador. "In ages gone did not our great poet Saadi say: 

He whom you love knows eternal happiness; 

In his ne’er-changing Paradise he shall not grow old. 

Now I have beheld you I know whither to direct my prayers - 

For thou art my East, and to thee rise my behests. . . . 

‘Is that the way one should talk ... to win the recalcitrant woman of 
France? . . . You I shall call Madame Firousi-Khanoum . . . Madame 
Turquoise . . . the loveliest of all precious stones, the emblem of the 
ancient Medes and the Persians. In our land blue is the most beloved 
of colours/ 

Before she could even make a gesture of refusal, he had drawn from 
his hand a massive ring and slipped it on her ring finger. 

. . Madame Turquoise . . . this is the expression of my delight 
when I look into your eyes. This gem has the power to change colour 
when any man or woman who wears it proves deceitful/ 

He turned a gende yet mocking smile upon her which fascinated her. 
She would have liked to refuse the gift, but she could only murmur her 
thanks as she gazed at it glistening on her hand. 

With a great rusding of his silken robes Baktiari Bey arose. His move- 
ments were like a cat’s - lissome yet revealing a hidden strength that 
came from his training in horsemanship and in fighting with heavy 
wooden clubs. 

"You are learning Persian fast . . . very fast. . . . Are there many 
women at Court as beautiful and as charming as you?’ 

"As many as the ocean has waves/ 

She was in a hurry now to get away. 


‘I shall let you go, then/ said the Ambassador, ‘since such is the 
singular custom of your strange country where you send presents only to 
take them away with you again. Why does the King of France treat me 
so? The Shah of Persia is powerful. He could expel from his country all 
the French priests and their twenty missions. He could refuse to sell 
you silk. Where does your King think he could get silk like ours? The 
mulberries bear white berries only in Persia, and it is these trees that 
feed the worms that make the finest silk. Elsewhere the mulberry fruit 
is red. The treaty we wished to sign will cover that, won’t it? Tell your 
King that. And now I want to consult my astrologer. Come along/ 


The Jesuit and the two Frenchmen were waiting in the vestibule. 
Baktiari Bey left them, but soon returned with an old man with a dirty 
white beard and the signs of the zodiac on his turban, and a younger 
man, with an enormous nose and a jet-black beard, who spoke fluent and 
excellent French. 

‘My name is Agobian. I am an Armenian Catholic and a merchant, 
die friend and confidential secretary of His Excellency. This is his 
religious instructor and astrologer Hadji Sefid/ 

Angelique took a step towards them intending to curtsy, but stopped 
when she saw the astrologer recoil, muttering some words in which 
nedjess, meaning ‘unclean’, kept recurring. 

‘Madame, you must not go too near our venerable chaplain. He is 
very strict about coming into contact with women. He came with us to 
examine your horse to see if it involved any aspects of an unlucky star/ 

The austere astrologer seemed to be nothing but skin and bones 
wrapped in a coarse linen caftan bound by a metal belt. His fingernails 
were long and painted scarlet, as were his toenails which peeped out of 
sandals apparently made of pasteboard. He did not seem to mind the 
cold or the snow as they walked across the garden to the stables. 

‘What is your secret for not getting cold?’ Angelique asked respect- 

The old man shut his eyes and said nothing for a moment. Then in 
a voice that was surprisingly young and musical, he answered her. The 
Armenian translated. 

‘Our priest says the secret is simple. One must fast and practise 
abstinence from all earthly pleasure. He also said he answered you, 
even though you are a woman, because you bring no evil. Neither is 

your horse inauspicious for His Excellency. This is indeed rather 
curious, for the present month is an unfavourable time. 

Shaking his head, the old man walked around the horse, while the 
others kept silent in deference to his meditations. Then he spoke again. 

‘He says/ translated the Armenian, ‘that even a very unlucky month 
can be changed into a more favourable one by earnest prayers and the 
conjunction of different planets. The prayers of those who have suffered 
are more acceptable to the Omnipotent. He says that sorrow has not 
marked your face, but has scarred your soul like a scourge. Where did 
you get such wisdom as few women possess? But you are still not on 
the way to salvation for you are too attached to worldly follies. He 
pardons you for this because you are not of evil aspect and because the 
conjunction of your life with that of his master may even bring great 
benefits . . / 

He had hardly uttered these words than the face of the astrologer 
changed suddenly. His thick, hennaed eyebrows wobbled, and his pale 
eyes began to flash. All the Persians took on the same expression of 
anger and surprise. 

‘He says/ the Armenian exclaimed, ‘a serpent is among us, using our 
hospitality to steal from us . . / 

His scrawny red-nailed finger pointed straight in front of him. 

‘FlipotF shouted Angelique in horror. 

Already two soldiers had seized the young lackey and hurled him to 
his knees. Out of his vest spilled three precious stones - an emerald and 
two rubies. 

‘FlipotP Angelique repeated in consternation. 

Uttering some words of violence the Ambassador strode forward with 
his hand on the hilt of the weapon at his belt, and drew his scimitar. 

Angelique hurled herself in front of him. ‘What are you going to 
do? Father, intervene, I beg you. His Excellency can’t be going to cut 
off his head . . / 

‘In Ispahan it would have already been done/ the Jesuit said coldly. 
‘And I would risk my own by trying to interfere. It is a deplorable 
incident, and a final insult. His Excellency would never understand 
why he should not punish this little thief in his usual way/ 

He tried his best to restrain his disciple, while Angelique struggled 
against the soldiers who were trying to carry her off and while three 
other guards were trying to restrain ‘Swordthrust’ Malbrant, who had 
already drawn his sword. 

‘His Excellency will settle for merely cutting out his tongue and 
chopping off his hands/ said the Armenian. 


‘His Excellency has no business punishing my servants. This boy 
belongs to me. It is up to me to decide what punishment he should 

Baktiari Bey turned his flashing eyes on her and seemed to grow less 

‘His Excellency wishes to know what punishment you will give him/ 

‘I shall . . . shall have him given twenty-seven lashes/ 

The Ambassador seemed lost in thought. He made a guttural ex- 
clamation, then turned on his heel and headed towards the house* 
Dragging Flipot, who was speechless with terror, the soldiers drove 
the French out of the garden and shoved them off the property with- 
out further ado, shutting the gates behind them. 

‘Where are the horses?’ asked Angelique. 

‘Those dastardly Turks have kept them/ said Malbrant, ‘and I don’t 
think they have any intention of giving them back to us/ 

‘We’ll have to walk home/ agreed one of the lackeys. 

Angelique was so dead tired she slept till ten the following morning*. 
Then there was a knock at her door. 

‘Madame, there’s someone to see you/ 

‘Let me alone/ she called out. 

When she opened her eyes, she found Javotte shaking her. 

‘Madame/ Javotte was saying, her face deathly white, ‘these two 
officers insisted I call you. They demand to be received, “no matter what 
you’re doing,” as they said/ 

‘Let them wait . . . till I’m ready to get up/ 

‘Madame/ Javotte said in a quavering voice, ‘I’m afraid. Those fellows 
act as if they’d come to arrest you/ 

‘Arrest me? Me?’ 

They’ve posted guards at all the doors of the house, and they’ve 
ordered your coach to be hitched up to take you away in/ 

Angelique got up. trying to collect her wits. What did they want of' 
her? The time had passed for Philippe to be playing a trick on her. 
Just the night before last the King had given her a footstool. . . . 
Nothing had happened to confound her. . . . 

She dressed in haste and received the two officers, trying to hide her 
yawns. Javotte had not been mistaken in thinking them the King’s 
police. They handed her a letter. Why did her hands shake as she 
broke the seals? 

In formal language the writ directed the addressee to be so good'. 

2 33 

as to follow the bearer. The King's seal had been affixed to the bottom 
of the page, and it read like an order for arrest for questioning. 
Angelique was dumbfounded until presendy she realised she must be 
the dupe of some plot that was using the name of the King to do her 

'Who gave you this letter and these orders?' she asked. 

'Our superiors.' 

'And what am I supposed to do?' 

'Follow us, Madame.' 

Angelique turned to her servants who had circled around her 
mumbling with anxiety. She ordered Malbrant, Roger her steward, and 
three others to saddle their horses and accompany her so that if she 
were enticed into some ambuscade she would have an escort to protect 

The older officer interrupted. 'I am sorry, Madame, but the King's 
orders are to take you alone.' 

Angelique’s heart began to beat a tattoo. 'Am I under arrest?' 

‘I don't know, Madame. All I can tell you is that I am to take you to 

Angelique got into the coach, still racking her brains. Saint-Mande? 
What in the world was at Saint-Mande? A convent, where she might 
be shut up incommunicado ? Why? Would she ever find out? What 
would become of Florimond? Saint-Mande? 

Then it dawned on her that this was where the former Comptroller 
of France, Fouquet, had built one of his villas. She heaved a sigh of 
relief. She recalled that after Fouquet had been arrested and im- 
prisoned, the King had given all his possessions to Colbert, who had 
succeeded him. Who could be behind all this but Colbert? It was 
certainly a strange way of inviting a lady to his house, and she made up 
her mind to tell him so, important as he was. 

Then her anxiety returned. She had seen plenty of sudden and un- 
explained arrests. Sometimes the victims appeared again smiling after 
everything had been straightened out, but meanwhile their property 
had been confiscated and their papers gone through. Angelique had 
done absolutely nothing about protecting her money. 

'That's a lesson for me,' she said to herself. 'If I get out of this, I 
will be much more careful about my business in the future.' 

The coach had wound its way through the mud of the Paris streets 
and was now rolling along more rapidly over the frozen highway. The 
bare, icicle-hung oaks by the roadside told her they were approaching 
the forest of Vincennes. At last the former residence of Fouquet 


appeared on their right. It was less elaborate than the one at Vaux, 
yet its vulgar extravagance had been one of the chief charges against 
the famous financier who was now rotting away in the dungeon of a 
fortress in Piedmont. 

Even though it was winter and everything was covered with rime, 
the courtyard of the castle was humming with activity like a wood- 
yard. Everything was being undermined or torn down. Beams and 
laths were piled at the base of the walls in which were gaping holes 
from which lead pipes were being tossed. Angelique had to lift her skirts 
to cross a stack of these pipes which barred the entrance. A foreman 
gave her his hand to help her. 

‘What the devil is Colbert tearing his house down for?' she asked 

‘Monsieur Colbert expects to make several thousand limes out of these 
lead pipes/ he said. 

The officer interrupted. ‘Madame is not permitted to talk/ 

‘There's nothing wrong in talking about plumbing/ Angelique pro- 
tested. She had resolved not to take this adventure seriously. Now that 
she saw she could get an explanation from Colbert, she had stopped 

Inside the house the same demolition was going on. Workmen were 
stripping the ceilings of the white gesso mouldings that the great artist 
Le Brun had designed. Angelique hated to see such destruction, 
but she kept her opinions about vandalism to herself. She had other 
fish to fry. It was especially important that she keep calm and 

She continued on to the wing of the castle where the present owner 
conducted his business. It had already been stripped of its decorations. 
The ‘shameless extravagance' of which Fouquet had been accused 
seemed to have been limited to these gilded plaster veneers. Now they 
were gone, there remained only rough brick walls which bore no re- 
semblance to the ‘marbled halls' which had helped get the former 
Comptroller imprisoned for life. 

At the end of a long corridor Angelique found herself in the centre 
of a waiting-room originally intended for the poor. Here now the 
flower of France crowded the simple benches. Saint-Mande was less a 
residence of the powerful minister than his antechamber, and every- 
one who had a request to make of him had to wait stoically in these 
draughty halls. 

Angelique took note of Madame de Choisy, Madame de Gamaches, 
the beautiful Scotch Baroness Gordon-Huntly, who was attached to the 


suite of Duchesse Henriette, and the young La Valliere, who pretended 
not to see her. The Prince de Conde was sitting beside de Solignac. As 
he saw Angelique he started to greet her, but de Solignac kept him back 
by whispering something in his ear. The Prince debated the matter 
for a while, then shook his sleeve free from de Solignac’s grasp and 
limped over to her, for the damp cold was hard on his bad leg. 

But Angelique’s jailers interfered again. 'Madame is not permitted 
to talk/ 

To avoid any conflict with the great prince they took Angelique into 
a little antechamber in spite of the mutterings of the courtiers who 
thought she was getting in ahead of them. 

In this other room there was no one but a petitioner whom she had 
not previously seen at Court - a foreigner whom she glanced at a 
second time wondering if he were not a Persian, for his complexion 
was quite dark and his slanting black eyes gave him an Asiatic appear- 
ance. Still he was dressed like a European so far as she could determine 
from the big shabby cloak he was wrapped in. On the other hand, 
his red leather boots topped with golden tassels and his kind of felt 
fez trimmed with scallops of white lamb’s wool indicated a foreign 
origin. He was wearing a sword. 

He rose and bowed to the newcomer without showing any surprise at 
her being escorted by her two warders. He suggested that she precede 
him, and his French was correct even though he rolled his ‘r’s’ rather 
noticeably. He would not have it, he said, that such a ‘charming’ lady 
wait any longer than necessary in such a sordid place. As he spoke he 
revealed a set of dazzlingly white teeth under his thin black moustache 
the ends of which drooped over the corners of his mouth. It had been 
a long time since anyone in France had worn such a full moustache as 
this except for old men of another generation like the Baron de Sance. 
At any rate, Angelique had never seen one so disconcerting as this 
stranger’s. When he was silent it gave him a ferocious and barbarous 
appearance. She was quite fascinated by it. Every time she stole a look 
at it, the foreigner gave her another smile and insisted she go in before 

The older police officer finally told him: ‘Madame is indeed much 
obliged to you, sir, but do not forget that the King is expecting you at 
Versailles. If I were you, I would ask Madame to be so kind as to wait a 
few moments more.’ 

The foreigner seemed not to have heard him. He continued to smile 
boldly and fixedly at Angelique until she began to feel embarrassed. She 
was less surprised at the officer’s lack of tact than at the respect he 


seemed to show this foreign petitioner. Whoever he was, he was at least 
very courteous. 

She strained her ears to try to tell whether the minister’s present 
visitor had been there long. The door of the conference room did not 
shut tight owing to the construction work and remodelling going on at 
Colbert’s orders. She could tell from the tone of the voices that the con- 
ference was coming to an end. 

‘Do not forget, either, Monsieur de Gourville, that you will be the 
secret representative of the King of France in Portugal. Noblesse oblige ,* 
Colbert concluded. 

‘Gourville,’ thought Angelique. ‘Wasn’t he one of the condemned 
comptroller’s henchman? I thought he had fled and was under sen- 
tence of death by default.’ 

A gentleman whose face was hidden behind a mask appeared in the 
doorway, cordially escorted by the minister. He passed her with a nod. 

Colbert knit his eyebrows. He hesitated a moment between the 
foreigner and Angelique, but when the former stepped aside, the 
minister’s forced smile grew even more dour. He beckoned to Angelique 
to come in and closed the door right in the face of her two escorts. 

Motioning her to an armchair, he sat down and stared at her in 
silence with a cold expression. Angelique recalled Madame de Sevigne’s 
nickname for him - ‘Mister North Pole’ - and smiled. 

Colbert leaped up as if he could no longer bear Angelique’s non- 
chalance. ‘Madame, can you tell me why you paid a visit yesterday to 
His Excellency the Ambassador of Persia, Baktiari Bey?’ 

‘Who told you?’ 

The King.’ 

He took a letter from his desk and tapped it irritably against his 
fingers. This morning I received this order from the King to bring 
you here as soon as possible and get an explanation from you.’ 

‘His Majesty’s spies get down to work fast.’ 

‘That’s what they are paid for,’ Colbert fumed. ‘Well, what answer 
can you give me? Who got you to visit the Shah of Persia’s repre- 

‘Just curiosity.’ 

Colbert cleared his throat. ‘Let us understand each other, Madame. 
This is a serious matter. The relations between this difficult person 
and France have become such that anyone, male or female, who visits 
him can be considered a traitor.’ 

‘How absurd 1 Baktiari Bey seemed to me to be very eager to meet 
the greatest monarch in the world and admire the beauty of Versailles/ 

2 37 

1 thought he was just about to leave without even presenting his 

‘He was the first to be concerned about that. He suffered from a want 
of tact on the part of all those clowns who were sent to him - Tercy, 
Saint-Amen, and the rest . . / 

‘You are speaking rather flippandy about experienced diplomats. Do 
you mean to imply they do not know their business?’ 

They know nothing about Persians, that’s certain. Baktiari Bey gave 
me the impression of being a well-intentioned man so far as politics is 

Then why does he refuse to present his credentials?’ 

‘Because he thinks he has been discourteously received, and that for 
him to appear in a coach with guards at the doors is beneath his 

‘But that is the usual way all ambassadors are received in this 

‘He won’t do it/ 

‘What does he want, then?’ 

To ride through Paris in a shower of rose petals while all the people 
prostrate themselves before him/ 

The minister said nothing. 

‘In the last analysis,’ Angelique continued, ‘this is up to you, Monsieur 

‘Me?’ he said in a panic. ‘I don’t know the first thing about such 
matters of etiquette/ 

‘Neither do I. But I do know enough to say that it is not very sensible 
to refuse a little compromise rather than lose an alliance that might be 
favourable to France/ 

Colbert wiped his face nervously. Tell me the details,’ he said. 

Angelique gave him a quick description of her comic-opera expedi- 
tion. Colbert listened to her without a trace of a smile, even when she 
described how His Excellency had wanted the torture to be repeated for 

‘Did he say anything to you about the secret clauses of the treaty?’ 

‘Not a word. He simply mentioned in passing that your factories 
could never get such fine silk as Persian . . . and, oh yes, he did say 
something about the Catholic missions/ 

‘He didn’t say anything about a counter-alliance with the Arabs or 
the Russians?’ 

Angelique shook her head. The minister was deep in thought. Ang6- 
lique let him brood for a while before resuming her account. 


‘All in all/ she concluded merrily, T have done you and the King a 

‘Not so fasti You have been hasty and extremely inefficient/ 

‘How, for heaven’s sake? Tm no enlisted army man who can’t visit 
anyone I want without getting permission from my superiors/ 

‘That is where you are mistaken, Madame. Let me tell you bluntly 
that you think you can act independendy, but the fact is that the 
higher you rise the more you have to beware of the slightest false step. 
The world of the great is full of snares. You have just barely escaped 
being arrested . . / 

‘I thought I had been/ 

‘No. I will take it upon myself to let you go free until I have setded 
this matter with His Majesty. However, please be sure to be at Versailles 
tomorrow. I think the King will want to hear your story after he has 
checked on it. I shall be there, too, to speak to his His Majesty about an 
enterprise I have just thought of in which you can be of assistance to 
us in dealing with Baktiari Bey/ 

He led her to the door and said to the two officers: ‘You can let her 


Angelique was so shaken by the unforeseen happy ending to this 
forced visit that she sank into a chair in the antechamber after the 
police officers had left and paid no attention to the petitioner who had 
taken the place of the foreigner. Eventually he came out from his 
conference and, rolling his Vs’, asked her to go with him to look for a 
cab they could hire, for he had no other means of getting back to 
Paris. Angelique followed him in a daze, and it was not till she en- 
countered her own postilion that she came back to her senses. 

‘I beg your pardon, sir. It is I who should have asked you to do me 
the pleasure of driving back to Paris with me in my coach/ 

The foreigner took in the silver-grey trappings trimmed with silver, 
and the livery of her servants, and gave her a pitying smile. 

‘Poor child/ be said. T am much richer than you, you know. I have 
no possessions, but I am free/ 

‘Quite a character!’ she thought as the coach got under way. 

In comparison with her anxiety of the morning, the ride back was 
wondrously comfortable. Now she could admit she had been scared to 
death, for she was well aware that such misunderstandings are seldom 
so easily straightened out. Relieved now of the strain she had been 
under, she made an effort at conversation with this well-bred person 


who had been so nice to her when everyone else was shunning her like 
the plague. 

‘May I inquire your name, sir? I do not believe I have seen you at 

‘Ah, but you did - the other day when His Majesty asked you to take 
a footstool, and you moved with such beauty and dignity, and your 
black gown seemed a reproach to all those gay-plumaged birds/ 

‘A reproach?' 

‘Perhaps that is not the right word. You were so different from the 
rest, so distinguished, that I wanted to shout: “Not her! Not her! Take 
her away from here!” * 

‘Thank heaven you did not!’ 

‘I should have/ he sighed. ‘Ever since I have been in France, I have 
not been myself. The French are not so spontaneous as other 
nationalities. They put their head before their heart/ 

‘Where do you come from?' 

‘I am Prince Rakoczy, and my country is Hungary/ 

The Prince told her that from his childhood he had given up all 
his possessions to devote himself to his people whose wretched con* 
dition had moved him deeply. He had incited a revolution to depose 
the King of Hungary, who had taken refuge with the Holy Roman 

‘His country must be in Europe, then/ Angelique deduced. 
‘Subsequently we had a republic in Hungary for a while. Then came 
the counter-revolution, and horrible repression. I was denounced by my 
partisans for a mouthful of bread, but I managed to escape and hid in a 
monastery. Then I got across the frontier in spite of being hunted, and 
came to France, where I found a warm welcome/ 

‘I am glad for you. Where are you living in France?' 

‘Nowhere, Madame. I am a wanderer like my ancestors. I am waiting 
to return to Hungary/ 

‘But you are risking certain death there/ 

‘I shall return just the same as soon as I have got your King's help 
in starting another revolution. I am a revolutionary at heart/ 
Angelique's eyes popped. This was the first real flesh-and-blood 
revolutionary she had ever seen. His dedication to revolt had made him 
woefully thin, but there was a light in his eyes that would keep anyone 
from pitying him or making fun of him. He seemed to be quite content 
with his lot as a hunted man. 

‘What makes you think our King will give you assistance or money 
to help you dethrone another king? He has a horror of such things/ 


In his own realm, yes. But in another country an insurgent can some- 
times be a useful tool. I have high hopes/ 

Angelique grew thoughtful. 'As a matter of fact, they say Richelieu 
helped Cromwell with French money and was really responsible for the 
beheading of the English king, Charles I, even though he was a cousin 
of the King of France/ 

The foreigner smiled absently. 1 am not familiar with English 
history, but I do know that the English have fallen under the domina- 
tion of a royal dynasty again. There is no new blood to renew their 
energy, and they are not yet ripe for another revolution. Neither is 
France ready. But we Hungarians are heirs of the freest of all peoples, 
and we are ready/ 

'But we are free, too/ Angelique protested. 

The Hungarian burst into such uncontrollable laughter that the 
coachman slowed down and turned around. Then with a shake of his 
head he resumed his speed. The Marquise was a good sort, but she did 
take up with the damnedest people ! 

The foreigner finally stopped laughing enough to exclaim: 'You call 
yourselves free when two policemen hale you before the minister of a 
police state?’ 

'It was a misunderstanding/ said Angelique. 'You saw for yourself 
the policemen did not take me back/ 

‘All the worse. They are behind you now. They will never be off your 
trail unless you work with them and for them, which means you have 
sold your freedom and your soul. If you want to escape a fate like 
that, you will have to get away/ 

Angelique began to be bored with his impassioned language. 'Get 
away? What an idea! I have achieved quite an enviable position and 
I am quite well off here, thank you very much/ 

'Not for long, believe me. Not with a head like yours ! ’ 

'What’s so unusual about it?’ 

'You have the head of an avenging angel, who cannot be swayed or 
influenced, but wields the sword of Justice and slashes the slimy bonds 
of compromise. Your piercing look makes others feel naked before you. 
There is no dungeon deep enough to extinguish the light of your 
eyes. Take care I’ 

'There is something in what you say/ said Angelique shaking her 
head with a sad little smile. 'I am very arbitrary, I know, but you don’t 
have to fear for me. My youthful errors have cost me dear, and have 
taught me how to be wiser/ 

'How to be a slave, you mean/ 


Tou go to extremes, sir. If you want my opinion, then no country 
on this earth is perfect. The state of the poor is deplorable everywhere. 
You talk like some kind of evangelist. All such end up on a cross. That's 
not for me.' 

‘An evangelist has to be a bachelor, or at least abandon his family, 
but I want to sow the seeds of freedom. That's the first thing I thought 
of when I saw you. Marry me and we shall flee together.’ 

Angelique resorted to the device all women use to get out of such a 
ticklish situation - she laughed and changed the subject. 

‘Oh look at all those people gathering up there 1 What's going on?' 
They had regained Paris and now in one of the narrow streets of the 
Saint-Paul quarter a gay parade was blocking their progress. It was a 
tattered troop of veterans, doubtless recruited for a few sols apiece, who 
were escorting a patrol which had just halted in a little square. In the 
middle they were erecting a sort of gibbet from which dangled a straw 
man with a big white placard pinned to its chest. The patrol sergeant, 
the chief of the local police, and a sergeant-at-arms represented the 
official side of the ceremony. When the dummy was hoisted to the top 
of the gibbet two snare drums sounded a long roll, and the crowd began 
howl even louder: ‘To the stake with cheats ! Death to swindlers of the 
people 1’ 

‘A fine revolutionary scene,' murmured the Hungarian with shining 

‘That's where you are wrong, Sir,' Angelique said, glad of the chance 
to get the better of him. ‘These people are cheering an act of justice 
on the part of the King. It's a mock execution. That's what they do 
when a criminal has been condemned to death but has managed to flee 
the country.’ 

She stuck her head out the window to find out who it was they were 
hanging in effigy. A burly, good-humoured tradesman told her it was 
Comte Herauld de Gourville, tax-collector of Guyenne, who had been 
convicted of speculating with the public money and had been an accom- 
plice of Fouquet whose iniquities had just recently come to light. Not 
a moment too soon, either 1 Let 'em know a litde about how they had 
been swindled 1 

The coach managed to get through the mob and continued on its way. 
Angelique lapsed into thought as did her companion, at the sight of 
this spectacle. 

‘Poor wretch' he sighed at length. ‘Poor victim of tyranny forced to 
live for ever away from his native land to which he can never return on 
pain of death. Alas, how these outlaws wander over the face of the 

earth, banned from their fatherland by the rod of despots!’ 

‘Which they doubtless well deserve. Don’t waste any sympathy on the 
fate of Gourville or criticise the King’s severity. What if I told you that 
he was in excellent health, was still in France, and actually working in 
the secret service of the King - in short, that he was the man in the 
mask we saw come out of Colbert’s office this very morning?’ 

Rakoczy seized her wrist, his eyes ablaze. ‘Are you sure of what you 
are saying?’ 

‘Almost certain/ 

His smile spread. ‘That’s why your King will pay me and my revolu- 
tionaries to fight another king/ he shouted triumphantly. ‘He is two- 
faced. He throws the gullible mob an effigy of the guilty as a bone to 
shut them up, but he keeps them working for him in secret. He signs 
a treaty of peace with Holland and then encourages the English to make 
war on the Dutch. He negotiates an alliance with Portugal to break 
the back of Spain, with which he is also allied. And he needs me to 
harass the Holy Roman Emperor. It won’t keep him from supporting 
that same emperor at St Gothard against the Turks, or from getting 
all he can out of the agreements he has signed with those very same 
Turks. He is a great king, very skilful and very subtle. No one really 
knows what he is up to. And he will turn you into another one of his 
puppets without any soul of your own/ 

Angelique drew her cloak more tightly about her shoulders. The 
words of this intense Hungarian made her blood run hot and then cold. 
She was utterly enraged by him and yet strangely fascinated. 

‘To hear you talk, no one could tell whether you hate him or admire 

‘I hate his power but I admire him as a man. He is the nearest thing 
to a true ruler I have ever encountered. Thank God he is not my king! 
The man who could topple him off his throne has not yet been born/ 

‘You have a strange way of thinking. You talk like some booby at 
Saint-Germain Fair whose only ambition is to play at skittles with the 
decapitated heads of kings/ 

Far from being shocked at her comparison, the Prince was actually 
amused by it. ‘I like the light touch you French have. When I stroll 
through Paris I love the cheerfulness of every one I meet. I have yet to 
find a workman who isn’t either whistling or singing as he works. I’ve 
been told they do it to try to forget how wretched they are. But the 
faces you see behind the glass windows of the fine coaches aren’t so 
happy. Why? Can’t the great ones of the kingdom sing, too, to forget 
their woes?’ 


The coach came to a stop before the H6tel du Beautreillis. Angelique 
wondered how to get rid of this man without hurting his feelings. 
But he jumped out before her and offered his hand to help her alight 
‘Here is your house. I used to have a palace/ 

‘Don’t you miss it?’ 

‘It’s only when you’re free of worldly possessions that you really 
begin to enjoy life. Madame, don’t forget what I asked you/ 

‘What was that?* 

‘To marry me/ 

‘Is that a joke?’ 

‘No indeed. You take me for a fool because you’re not used to sincerely 
dedicated persons. The passion of a lifetime takes only one second to 
spring into life. So why don’t you admit it now? The French keep 
their feelings as they do their women - in steel corsets. Come with me. 
I will set you free/ 

‘No, thank you/ said Angelique laughing. ‘I will stick to my corset. 
And now goodbye. Sir, before you make me say something I might 


When she got to Versailles that afternoon, Angelique went at once to 
the Queen’s apartments to try to discover whether she could still con- 
sider hers the little post she once had as assistant to the Mistress of the 
Wardrobe. She was told that the Queen had gone with her Maids of 
Honour to the village of Versailles to visit the parish priest. The Queen 
was in a sedan chair and her ladies on foot, so no one thought they 
could be very far away yet. Angelique went to catch up with them. 

As she was crossing the north terrace a hail of snowballs struck her. 
She turned to discover the practical joker and a fresh snowball hit her 
full in the face. She stumbled and slipped and tumbled in a great flurry 
of skirts and a cloud of powdered snow. 

Peguilin de Lauzun appeared from behind a clump of trees, laughing 
loudly. Angelique was furious. 

‘How long before you quit these puppyish tricks? The least you could 
do is help me up/ 

‘Certainly not,’ Peguilin shouted, leaping upon her and rolling her 
over and over in the snow, then kissing her and tickling her nose with 
his muff until she had to laugh and plead for mercy. 

‘That’s better,’ he said, helping her to her feet. ‘I saw you coming 


along as sad as could be, and that doesn't go at Versailles - or with 
your pretty face. Laugh, now, laugh!' 

'Peguilin, have you forgotten all my trouble of just a little while 

'Yes, I have,' he said gaily. 'We have to forget those things just as 
we do our turn to settle our account with our Maker. Besides, you 
would not have come back to Court if you did not intend to forget. 
So stop brooding and help me, little one.' 

He took her arm and led her into the maze of clipped and trimmed 
holly bushes that the winter had transformed into rows of sugarplums. 

'The King has just given his consent to our marriage’, he whispered 
as if it were a great secret. 

'What marriage?’ 

'Why, the marriage of Mademoiselle de Montpensier with that insig- 
nificant Gascon nobleman Peguilin de Lauzun. Don’t tell me you 
haven’t heard? She is mad about me. She has begged the King again 
and again to let her marry me. The Queen, Monsieur and Madame have 
raised a terrible fuss, claiming such a match is an affront to the dig- 
nity of the throne. Pfft . . . the King is just and good. He likes me. 
He thinks no one has a right to force a relative to remain single, 
especially when she is forty-three and can’t hope for a brilliant match. 
So in spite of all the cackling in the barnyard, he said yes.’ 

'Are you serious, Peguilin?’ 

1 couldn’t be more so.’ 

'I am sorry for it.’ 

'You shouldn’t be. I’m as good as that great ulcerous hog, the King 
of Portugal, who once was intriguing for her hand, or the Prince of 
Silesia, a babe in swaddling clothes, who was also one of her suitors/ 

'I’m not sorry for her, but for you.’ 

She stopped to regard his familiar face in which youth still lingered 
and his eyes still sparkling in spite of the creases in their lids. 

'What a pity P she sighed. 

'I shall be Due de Montpensier,’ Peguilin went on, 'and get all kinds 
of wonderful perquisites thereby. In the marriage contract Made- 
moiselle is turning over nearly twenty millions to me. His Majesty is 
writing to all the courts of Europe to announce his cousin’s marriage. 
Angelique, sometimes I think I’m dreaming. In all my wildest ambitions 
I never dared aim so high. The King will be my cousin ! I can’t even 
believe it yet. That’s why I’m scared and why I need your help.’ 

'I don’t see what for. Everything seems to be going your way.’ 

'Alas, fortune is fickle. Until I am wedded to the lovely Princess, I 


shan't sleep soundly. I have plenty of enemies, beginning with the 
royal family and the princes of the blood. Conde and his son the Due 
d'Enghien are furious with me. Couldn't you use some of your charm 
on the one hand to calm down the Prince, who thinks very highly of 
you, and on the other reassure the King lest he yield to all their 
protests? Madame de Montespan has already promised me her support, 
but I can't be sure of her. In this kind of politics two mistresses are 
better than one.' 

‘I am not the King's mistress, Peguilin/ 

He flipped his head from side to side like a mocking-bird getting 
ready for a flourish. ‘Maybe that's good and maybe that’s bad,' he 

They had come out of the gardens and up to the gates of the great 
courtyard. From inside a coach a man’s voice hailed them. 

‘From all I can see, you are very much in demand/ said Peguilin. ‘I 
don't want to stand in your way. But can I count on your help?' 

‘Absolutely not. Anything I could do would only be to your dis- 

‘Don't refuse me. You don't know what power you have. You don't 
want to admit it, but you can’t fool an old courtier like me. I mean it, 
you can get the King to do anything/ 

‘Don’t be silly/ 

‘You just don't understand, I keep telling you. You are like a thorn 
in the King’s heart, causing him exquisite pain, so disconcerting a 
feeling that he doesn't know what to make of it. No sooner does he think 
he has you, than you're gone. And he is surprised to find that when 
you’re gone he suffers indescribable torments/ 

‘Torments whose name is Madame de Montespan . . / 

‘Madame de Montespan is a titbit, a sure meal, a hearty supper of 
meat and wit, everything a monarch needs to gratify his senses and his 
vanity. He needs her, and he has her. But you . . . you are a spring in 
a desert . . . the dream of someone who has never dreamed . . . the 
mystery of mysteries . . . longing, surprise, yearning . . . the simplest 
woman in the whole world . . . and the most unfathomable ... the 
nearest and yet the farthest . . . the unassailable . . . the unforget- 
table / Peguilin thrust his hand sadly into the lace of his jabot. 

‘You talk almost as well as the Persian ambassador. I'm beginning to 
see how you lured poor Mademoiselle on/ 

‘Won't you promise to speak to the King on my behalf?’ 

‘If I get a chance, I will help you. Now, let me go, Peguilin. I must 
join the Queen/ 

24 6 

‘She needs you less than I do. Besides here is someone else who is 
determined to usurp you for His Majesty's service.' 

Out of the coach from which the voice had hailed them a man was 
hastily descending and was striving to join them. 

‘It's Colbert,' said Peguilin. ‘He has nothing to say to me. I can’t 
juggle money.' 

‘I am happy to have found you so soon,’ said the minister. ‘I am 
going to talk with His Majesty right now, and later we will call you 
into conference.' 

‘What if His Majesty doesn’t care to hear me . . .' 

‘It would be only a whim - perhaps justified - but he will listen to 
me. Come, Madame.’ 

Colbert’s optimism turned out to be premature. His interview with 
the King took longer than was necessary for a simple explanation. He 
had asked Angelique to wait for him on a bench in the Salon ol 
Peace. There she saw coming towards her her brother Raymond de 
Sance, his tall figure in its austere black soutane contrasting with the 
brightly costumed crowd of courtiers. She had had no occasion to see 
him since she married Philippe. Was he coming to offer her his con- 
dolences as a brother? He did so, but she quickly perceived such was not 
his sole purpose. 

‘My dear sister, you must be surprised to see me come looking loi 
you at Court, where my ministry seldom brings me.' 

‘But I thought you had been made almoner, or something like that, 
to the Queen.’ 

‘Father Joseph was appointed instead of me. My superiors preferred 
to make me head of our house in Melun.’ 

‘That means . . .' 

‘That I am Father Superior, or something like that,' he smiled. ‘Oi 
our Order's foreign missions, particularly in the Orient.' 

‘Aha, Father Richard . . 

‘Exacdy !’ 

‘Baktiari Bey ... his refusal to ride in a coach . . . the blunders ot 
Saint-Amen . . . the King’s failure to understand and the crises both 
spiritual and material that have resulted . . .' 

‘Angelique, I have always admired your quick thinking.’ 

Thank you, Raymond dear, but in this emergency I would have been 
at a loss if I had not got the point.’ 

‘Let’s come to the point Father Richard, with whom I have just been 
talking, thinks you are the only person who can possibly set matters 



1 am terribly sorry, Raymond, but this is a bad time. Fm on the 
verge of disgrace/ 

‘But the King welcomed you back with many honours. I heard you 
got a footstool/ 

‘That’s true. But what do you expect? The whims of the great are 
very changeable/ 

‘It’s far less a question of the King’s whims than of the Ambassador’s. 
Father Richard hasn’t even known what saint to pray to ever since they 
came to France. First the mistake was made of sending Saint- Amen to 
the Ambassador. He is a diplomat if you want to call him so, but he 
is a Protestant, and unfortunately the teachings of that persuasion are 
diametrically opposed to those of the Orientals. Hence all this con- 
glomeration of misunderstandings that have ended in the present 
crisis from which neither the King nor the Ambassador can withdraw 
without losing face. You see, your visit yesterday pulled the trigger. 
The Ambassador now seems to want to see Versailles and to speak 
deferentially with the King, and he now appears to understand that 
French customs can be different from his and not wholly designed to 
heap insults upon him. It is thanks to your visit that Father Richard 
has noticed this change for the better. “Women,” he told me, “some- 
times are more subtle and have more instinctive wisdom than we men 
can achieve with all our logic.” He confessed it had never occurred to 
him to boast about the porcelains or the flowers at Versailles as a 
means of persuading the Ambassador to present his credentials. 
“Orientals,” he said to me, “are sensitive to an intelligent woman 
because in certain respects she can come closer to their way of think- 
ing than we Western men with old coldly mathematical minds.” In 
short, he asked me to entreat vou to continue your happy intervention. 
You might return to Suresnes some day soon and perhaps bring with 
you a kindly message from the King . . . who knows, perhaps even an 
invitation. You see, you are neither afraid of His Excellency nor 
offensively inquisitive as so many other French people who have met 
him have been/ 

‘Why should I act so foolishly?’ Angelique said, fondling the 
turquoise on her finger. ‘The Persian is perfectly charming, except for 
his hobby of wanting to cut off everyone’s head. But don’t you 
think, Raymond, that I am putting my soul in danger more than my 

The Jesuit looked at his sister with amusement. ‘You don’t have to 
compromise your virtue, just use your influence/ 

‘What a nice little distinction ! So the twenty-six missions in Persia 


are well worth a few languorous looks for the envoy of the Shah of 

The face of the Reverend Father de Sance did not change expression 
A smile still flickered around the corners of his mouth. 

‘You have nothing to fear, I see/ he said, ‘for there is nothing in 
this world that can frighten you. You have acquired a new weapon since 
last we met - you’ve become cynical.' 

‘I live at Court, Raymond/ 

‘Are you trying to blame me for that? Where else could you live, 
Angelique? What world do you think you were made for? The 
country? A convent?’ 

He was still smiling, but in the hard light of his eyes she could see 
the might of a sword designed to pierce human beings to their very 

‘You are right, Raymond. So the Persian stakes are worth this 

‘If Baktiari Bey goes back empty-handed, we will be expelled at 
once from all the missions we established, not without hardship, during 
the last regime under the impetus of Richelieu. We have missions in 
the Caucasus, at Tiflis, Tatum, Baku, and so on/ 

‘Have you converted many?’ 

‘It’s not so much a matter of the number of converts we have made 
as it is of our just being there. Not to mention the Armenian Catholic 
minorities or the Syrian ones who need us/ 

Angelique had spread her fan open on her knees. The one she had 
chosen that morning was of silk painted with exotic landscapes in 
which, in an oval surrounded with pearls, stood a representative of each 
of the five continents - an Indian with ostrich feathers in his hair, a 
negro riding a lion into the lair of a dragon . . . 

Colbert interrupted them as they were studying it. 

‘Nothing can be done/ he said defeatedly. The King is so furious 
with you I’m surprised to see you still at Court. He does not even want 
to hear about your visit.’ 

‘Didn’t I warn you?’ 

She introduced her brother, the Reverend Father Raymond de 
Sanc6. Although he denied it, Colbert was not without distrust of the 
Company of Jesus and its members. His cunning took measure of their 
intelligence and how capable they were of blocking his plans. But his 
face lit up when he was given to understand that this Jesuit was bring- 
ing grist to his mill. When he was informed of the situation, Raymond de 
Sance did not take it as such a tragedy. 


1 chink I detect the real reason for the King's displeasure with you. 
You have refused to tell him the reason for your visit/ 

1 shall tell no one/ 

*1 daresay. I know how stubborn you can be, my dear Angelique. But 
if you refuse the King, how can you expect him to be any more in- 
dulgent to us? Can't we find some plausible reason which will explain 
your uncompromising attitude? Let's see. Ah, I've got it! Why not 
give him the same reason you gave me just now? You went to Suresnes 
at my request to establish contact with Father Richard, whose delicate 
situation kept him from receiving me in person among those sus- 
suspicious Mohammedans. What do you think of that, Monsieur 

‘I think it will work if it is well handled/ 

‘Reverend Father Joseph of our Order is an almoner of the King's. 
HI go and get him right away. What do you think, Angelique?' 

‘I think you Jesuits are just as extraordinary as my friend the police 
chief Desgrez says they are.' 

As they strode away from her down the long hall she was amused to 
see how their outiines were reflected in the highly polished wood of the 
floor - the thick-set statesman and the slender priest. 

Suddenly she realised that there were no more passers-by. She was 
aware that she was terribly hungry. Doubdess it must be quite late. 
All the Court must be at the King's dinner. She decided to go there 
coo, but she continued to stare dreamily at her fan. 

‘I have been looking for you,' a timid female voice said in her ear. 

Angelique could not reconcile it with its owner, the Grande 
Mademoiselle, whom she looked up to see bending over her. What 
had so transformed the authoritative tones of the granddaughter of 
Henri IV? 

‘It must be her marriage,' she thought as she hastened to make her 

Mademoiselle made her sit down beside her and took her hand with 
emotion. ‘My dear, have you heard the news?' 

‘Who has not heard it or is not delighted with it? Will Your High- 
ness allow me sincerely to wish you the greatest happiness?' 

‘Haven't I made a lucky choice? Tell me, is there any other nobleman 
as brave and brilliant? Don't you find him delightful? Aren't you a 
great friend of his?' 

‘I certainly am,' said Angelique, remembering the incident at Fon- 

But Mademoiselle's memory was apparently short and there seemed 

to be no veiled allusions in her words. ‘If you only knew what a trance 
I've been in ever since the King gave his approval! And how worried !' 

‘Why, indeed? You have his assurance, so enjoy your happiness. The 
King cannot go back on his word/ 

1 wish I could be as sure as you/ sighed Mademoiselle de Mont- 

Her haughty head drooped with uncustomary tenderness. Her bosom 
was still as handsome as when Van Ossel had painted her portrait to be 
sent to all the royal suitors of Europe. Her hands were graceful, and 
her pretty blue eyes shone with the childish wonder of a young girl in 
her first love affair. 

Angelique smiled at her. ‘How pretty you look, Your Highness!' 

‘Really? How sweet of you to say so! I am so happy my face must 
show it. But I tremble at the thought that the King may revoke his 
promise before the marriage contract is signed. That fool Marie- 
Therese and my cousin Orleans and his pest of a wife are in league to 
ruin my plans. They do nothing but howl about it all day long. If you 
love me, try to defeat their arguments to the King/ 

‘Alas, Your Highness, I . . / 

‘You have a great deal of influence over the King's mind.' 

‘But what good does it do to boast of a great influence over the 
King's mind?' Angelique exclaimed irritably. ‘You know him. You 
should know that he never follows any judgement but his own. He 
listens to opinions but when he makes a decision it is not because he 
has been influenced, as you suggest. It is because that decision seems 
right to him. The King is never of your turn of mind, but rather you 
are of the King's/ 

‘So you refuse to intervene for me? I did my best for you a long 
time ago when you were in such trouble when your first husband was 
accused of sorcery.' 

So Mademoiselle's memory was not so short after all ! 

Angelique snapped her fan shut so abruptly she almost broke it. 
Finally she promised that if the occasion arose she would try to find out 
how the King felt about the matter. Then she asked leave to with- 
draw to get some soup or a roll, for she had not eaten since the night 
before, had not even found time for a glass of wine after Mass. 

‘You cannot!' said the Grande Mademoiselle taking her arm to drag 
her along. The King is going to receive the Doge of Genoa and his 
suite in the Throne Room. Then there's going to be a raffle and a 
great display of fireworks. The King wants all the ladies there to do 
him honour. And especially you l If you don't come, we'll run the 


risk of seeing him in another temper like yesterday when you went 
running off Lord knows where/ 

That night Angelique was deep in a dream that for some time now 
had frequently repeated itself. She was lying in the grass of a meadow, 
and was cold. As she tried to pull the grass over her she found she 
was naked. Then she waited for the sun to come out from behind white, 
white clouds that drifted lazily in a deep-blue sky. At last its rays 
warmed her body and she relaxed in a complete sense of well-being 
and extreme happiness until she observed that it was not a sunbeam 
caressing her, but a hand on her shoulder. At once she was cold again, 
and she kept saying to herself: 'Of course it’s cold because it’s winter. 
But then, why is the grass so green ?’ And she would be confused by the 
chill of the weather and the green of the grass until she woke up shiver- 
ing and rubbing her shoulder where she could still feel the touch of a 
soft warm palm. 

This particular night the dream woke her again. Her teeth were 
chattering. She pulled back up over her the bedclothes she had kicked 
off as she tossed in her dream. She was so cold that she debated calling 
for one of the Gilandon girls, who were sleeping in the next room, to 
light her fire. 

Her apartment at Versailles comprised two rooms and a little bath- 
room whose mosaic-tiled floor sloped towards the centre permitting the 
water to drain away through a hole in the middle. Angelique decided 
she would warm herself up by taking a foot-bath in lavender water. 
The water in the kettle on the chafing dish was warm from the charcoal 
embers beneath it. She flung back the bed-curtains and groped with her 
feet for her blue satin slippers lined with marabou. 

Arius barked. 


The silvery chime of a clock tinkled in the distance telling Angelique 
that she could not have been asleep for long. Indeed, it was hardly 
midnight. For a brief spell the great palace of Versailles was quiet, 
seeking respite from the balls, the late suppers, the enchantment of 
the night-time entertainments. 

Angelique had to get down on her hands and knees to search for her 
slippers. In doing so she discovered at her left near the bed-alcove a 
little door betrayed by the thin line of light that outlined its shape. 
She had never noticed it before; only the flickering light of a candle 
behind it revealed it to her now. Someone must be on the other side 

groping for the bolt. Then there was a tiny click, and the beam of 
light widened to cast the shadow of a man on the opposite wall. 

‘Who's there? Who are you?' 

‘Bontemps, the King's valet. Don't be afraid, Madame.’ 

‘Oh yes, now I recognise you. What do you want of me?' 

‘His Majesty wishes to see you.’ 

‘At this hour?’ 

‘Yes, Madame.’ 

Without another word Angelique threw on her dressing-gown. The 
litde apartment ‘Reserved for Madame du Plessis-Belliere’ was luxuri- 
ously furnished, but not without its traps. 

‘May I ask you to wait a moment, Monsieur Bontemps? I should like 
to dress.' 

‘Certainly, Madame. But please be so good as not to wake your 
attendants. His Majesty wishes us to be as discreet as possible and to 
let the existence of this private door be known only to a very few 
people we can trust.’ 

‘I shall be careful.’ 

She lit a candle for herself from Bontemps's, and went into the adjoin- 
ing room. 

‘There’s nothing in this world that can frighten you,’ Raymond had 
told her. He was right. Her hazardous life had taught her to face up 
to danger rather than run from it. If her teeth were chattering, it was 
from cold, not fright. 

‘Monsieur Bontemps, will you oblige me by helping me hook up my 
dress, please?’ 

Louis XIV’s valet bowed and set his candlestick on a table. Angelique 
was very considerate of this pleasant litde man who performed his 
unenviable tasks without seeming in the least servile. He was responsible 
for the King's household and for the feeding and lodging of the 
entire Court. Louis could not have done without him and burdened 
him with a thousand and one petty duties. Rather than bother his 
master at awkward moments, Bontemps frequently paid for things 
out of his own pocket. The King already owed him seven thousand 
pistoles that he had advanced him at the gaming tables and the raffles. 

Angelique brushed a litde rouge on her cheeks. Her cloak was in 
the next room, where her chaperones were sleeping. She shrugged her 
shoulders. ‘So much the worse,’ she said. ‘I’m ready, Monsieur Bon- 

She had a hard time squeezing her full heavy skirts through the 
secret doorway, which closed behind them noiselessly. She found her- 


self in a narrow passageway hardly higher or wider than a man. Bon- 
temps led her up a little winding staircase, then down three steps to a 
kind of tunnel that wound darkly ahead of them. As they twisted along 
it she noticed many doors which presumably led to secret rooms, and 
wondered what mysterious occupants they were designed for, or what 

This was an aspect of Versailles she had never imagined - of spies and 
secret meetings, visits incognito, secret conferences, clandestine ren- 
dezvous - an arcane Versailles sealed in its own thick walls and entwin- 
ing its invisible coils around the great golden rooms that gleamed and 
glittered with a light like day. 

They crossed one last buried room in which a bench and a tapestried 
hassock seemed to await some subterranean guests, and came to a 
door that opened into a much larger room whose steeply vaulted ceiling 
indicated that it belonged to some extensive apartment. As she looked 
around her, Angelique recognised the King’s conference chamber. Two 
six-branched candelabra on a black marble table that reflected their 
flames revealed the sovereign bent studiously over his papers. Two big 
greyhounds were asleep by the embers on the hearth. They stirred and 
growled lazily, then curled up again. 

Bontemps poked up the fire and threw another log on it, then melted 
away into the wall like a shadow. 

Louis XIV, still grasping his pen, looked up. Angelique saw him 

Tray be seated, Madame.’ 

She perched apprehensively on the edge of an armchair. There was a 
dead silence in the room, any noise from the outside being muffled by 
heavy blue draperies at the windows and the doors. 

At length the King rose and stood before her, his arms crossed. ‘So, 
you have not yet given the signal for attack? Not a word? Not a 
protest? Even at being dragged out of bed? Aren’t you even cross?* 

‘Sire, I am at Your Majesty’s service.’ 

‘Why so humble all of a sudden? Where is your usual stinging 
reply? What caprice is this?’ 

‘Your Majesty makes me out to be a harpy, and puts me to shame. Is 
that what you think of me, Sire?’ 

The King did not give her a direct answer. ‘Reverend Father Joseph 
has been extolling your abilities to me for over an hour. He is a man 
of good judgement and a liberal mind, and I appreciate his advice. It 
would be ungracious of me not to forgive you now that I know the 
best minds of the Church have put you under the protection of their 

indulgence. Now, what have I said that makes you smile so sardonic- 

1 didn’t expect to be awakened at this hour of the night to hear 
your austere almoner praised/ 

The King laughed. ‘Little witch!’ 

‘Soliman Baktiari Bey calls me fouzoul khanoum / 

‘What does that mean?’ 

‘The same thing. Isn’t that proof that the King of France and the 
Ambassador of the Shah of Persia can think alike?’ 

‘We shall see about that/ He held out his hands to her, palms up. 
‘Little toy, pay homage to your sovereign/ 

With a smile Angelique laid her hands in his. ‘I pledge my allegiance 
to the King of France, whose liege-woman and vassal I am/ 

‘That’s better. Now, come here/ 

He helped her rise, and led her around to his side of the table. It was 
spread with a big open map on which was a wide expanse of blue 
among the lines of latitude and longitude and puffing cherubs at each 
of the four principal points of the compass. On the blue were inscribed 
in letters of white and gold enscrolled with many a flourish, the mighty 
words ‘Mare Nostrum - Madre Nostra?, the old name still given by 
geographers to the Mediterranean, the cradle of civilisation: ‘Our Sea - 
Our Mother’. 

The King pointed out several places with his finger. ‘Here is France. 
There, Malta; there, Candia, the last stronghold of Christianity. Then 
we encounter the power of the Turks. And, as you can see, Persia is 
over there -that lion against a rising sun between the crescent of 
Turkey and the tiger of Asia/ 

‘Did Your Majesty summon me here at this late hour to talk about 

‘Did you want us to talk about something else perhaps?’ 

Angelique shook her head, keeping her eyes on the map and refusing 
to look him in the eye. 

‘No, let’s talk about Persia, then. What interest does France have in 
that far-off land?’ 

‘An interest that cannot be without interest to you, Madame. Silk. 
Did you know that three-quarters of our imports come from there?’ 

‘I did not know. That’s a lot. Why do we need so much silk in 
France? What will we do with it?’ 

The King burst out laughing. ‘Do with it? You, a woman, ask that? 
My dear, how do you think we could get along without our brocades, our 
satins, our stockings at twenty-five Uvres a pair, our ribbons, our 


chasubles? Do without bread, rather! That's the way the French are. 
Their great business is not in spices, or oil, or wheat, or hardware, or 
any other vulgar things like that, but in fashion. 

Tn my father’s time Richelieu tried to make dress simpler. You know 
what happened. He succeeded only in raising the prices of materials 
because they had to be smuggled in and thus were harder to come by. 
Now, this is where the shoe pinches and why a new commercial treaty 
with the Shah of Persia is important: the French must have silk, but 
it is too costly. It’s a ruinous enterprise.’ He ticked off the reasons. ‘Duty 
to the Persians. Toll to the Turks for bringing goods through their 
country. Toll to various other intermediary agents - Genoa, Metz, 
Provence. We need another arrangement.’ 

‘Doesn’t Monsieur Colbert envisage replacing these huge imports 
with a local manufacture? He told me he was planning to convert the 
factories of Lyons.’ 

That will take a long time. We have not yet learned the secret of 
the oriental methods of manufacturing brocade and lame. The mulberry 
trees I ordered to be planted in the south will not mature for many years.’ 

‘And they will not produce a silk like Persian silk for us. They bear 
black berries, whereas in Persia the silkworms feed on the white- 
berried trees which grow on their high plateaux.’ 

‘How do you know so much about it?’ 

‘His Excellency Baktiari Bey told me.’ 

‘So he talked to you about the silk business? Then he must suspect 
it is an important part of our negotiations. Did he seem to know much 
about our problem?’ 

‘He is a very literate man, something of a poet, and highly civilised - in 
his own way. He has the ear of the Shah of Persia, thanks to his gifts 
as a courtier, but he has other talents as well which may be less 
appreciated in his own country but are more of a threat to us. He is 
an excellent business man, unusual though that is for a man of his 
rank, for the Persian nobles have in general let all their business go to 
the Armenians and Syrians.’ 

The King sighed resignedly. ‘I guess I will have to yield to the opinions 
of Colbert and Father Joseph after all. You certainly seem to be the 
only one able to untangle this unholy mess over silk.’ 

They looked at each other and laughed like fellow-conspirators bound 
by a tie there was no need to mention. The King’s eyes began to 

‘Angelique . . .’ he said in a hollow voice. Then, in his natural tone: 
‘Everyone I sent to him has reported nothing but asininities. Both Tercy 


and Saint-Amen have described him as a gross barbarian, unable to 
adapt himself to our customs or treat the King, his host, with due 
respect. Now my intuition tells me you have properly depicted him as 
a shrewd and cunning man, refined but ruthless/ 

‘I am sure. Sire, that if you had been able to meet him yourself, in- 
stead of your ambassadors, these difficulties would not have arisen. You 
have a gift for detecting a person’s true character at a glance/ 

‘Alas, there are certain things kings cannot do for themselves, but 
they have to know how to choose the right person for a job. This is the 
first and most important element in making a ruler great. I made a 
mistake in not selecting carefully enough the men I sent to the am- 
bassador as my representatives. Saint-Amen, whom I appointed chief 
of protocol, seemed the proper person, and I did not take his liabilities 
into account. He is a Huguenot, and like all others of his persuasion he 
has a mean, suspicious nature that is more inclined to think of his 
principles than compromise them for the sake of his country’s interests. 
This isn’t the first time I have pondered the nature of these Protestants. 
The most devout are uncontrollable because of the curious rigidity of 
their creed. Hereafter I shall be cautious about having any more of them 
in important positions/ 

He made a gesture with his hand signifying an impassable barrier. 
Then his face softened. ‘You have been kind enough, Madame, to come 
to our rescue in time/ 

‘That’s not the way Your Majesty was talking this morning/ 

‘I admit it. It was small of me not to want to confess I had been 
wrong. I know what I must have and what I must avoid. You have shown 
me the surest way of getting what I want. If we do not arrive at some 
understanding with the Shah of Persia’s ambassador, it’s extremely 
likely that he will expel our Jesuits and keep us from all the silk of his 
mulberry trees. The fate of both issues is in your hands/ 

Angelique’s eye fell on her turquoise. ‘What am I to do? What part 
shall I play?’ 

Tind out what the Prince is thinking and then let me know how I 
should deal with him so as to avoid any further blunders. If you 
possibly can, find out in advance what traps he is setting for us/ 

‘In a word, seduce him. Try to cut off his hair like Delilah?’ 

The King smiled. ‘I leave it to you to decide what may be 

Angelique bit her lip. ‘This is not an easy assignment. It will take a 
lot of time/ 

‘That’s of small importance/ 

2 57 

‘I thought everyone was in a hurry to have the Ambassador present 
his credentials/ 

‘Everyone but me. To tell the truth, when they told me at the very 
beginning that Baktiari Bey was hesitant about doing so, I was annoyed. 
Since then I have let things drift, and now, on the contrary, I want the 
interview postponed. I want first to receive the Russian Ambassador, 
who is on his way. I can speak more freely with the Persian afterwards. 
If the Russians agree, we can establish a new overland route for the 
silk and thus protect ourselves from the depredations of the Turks and 
the Genoese and others like them/ 

‘So the bales of merchandise will no longer come by sea?’ 

‘No, they will follow the ancient route of the Tartars that the mer- 
chants of Samarcand take into Europe. Look, here is the new route I 
have been sketching - by way of the Caucasian steppes, the Ukraine, 
Bessarabia, Hungary. Thereafter by these lands that belong to my 
cousin the King of Bavaria. When all is said and done, it will cost less 
on the whole than the raids of the Barbary pirates and the ruinous tolls 
we have to pay when using the sea route/ 

As they both leaned over the map following this extraordinary route 
their heads touched. Angelique felt the King's curls brush against her 
cheek. She straightened up quickly in alarm. A tremor ran through her. 
She went around the table to sit down again opposite the King, noticing 
that during their conversation the fire had died down. She began to 
shiver and wished she had brought her cloak. Now she would have to 
wait until the King himself indicated she might leave. This he did not 
seem disposed to do. He kept on talking about the plans of Colbert for 
the factories of Lyons and Marseilles. 

Finally he stopped. ‘You aren't listening. What’s the matter with 

Angelique was hugging her arms to keep warm and did not answer at 
once. Being of an extremely rugged constitution, the King was oblivious 
to cold, heat and fatigue, and rarely noticed that those who had the 
honour of being in his company minded them. To complain about them 
put him in a bad humour and often resulted in disgrace. Old Madame de 
Chaulnes had once expressed herself on the subject during a military 
review in an icy wind, and had been told to ‘nurse her rheumatism in 
her own castle’. 

‘What’s the matter?’ the King insisted. ‘You seem lost in some plot or 
other. I trust you are not going to insult me by refusing the mission I 
have just entrusted to you/ 

‘By no means, Sire. If such had been my intention I would not 


have listened to you. Does Your Majesty think I could be capable of 

‘I think you are capable of anything/ the King said soberly. ‘Do you 
thi nk you may fail me?' 

‘No, indeed/ 

‘Then what is the trouble? Why have you suddenly become so 

‘I'm freezing/ 

The King looked astonished. ‘Freezing?' 

‘The fire has gone out, Sire. It's the dead of winter, and it's two 
o'clock in the morning/ 

An amused surprise was discernible on the features of Louis XIV. 
‘So there is a trace of weakness in you? I have never heard anyone com- 
plain so/ 

‘No one dares to, Sire. They're all afraid of displeasing you/ 

‘But you . . / 

‘I am afraid, too, but I'm more afraid of getting sick. Now then, how 
shall I execute Your Majesty’s orders?' 

The King smiled at her thoughtfully, and for the first time she 
sensed diat within his proud heart there was a little tenderness. 

‘Good/ he said decisively. ‘I want to talk with you some more, but I 
don't want to kill you/ 

He peeled off his thick brown velvet coat and draped it about her 
shoulders. She sniffed its male smell mingled with the orris-root perfume 
he loved and which characterised his prestige and the awe he in- 
spired. It gave her an almost sensuous pleasure to pull the gold-braided 
lapels of the coat over her breast. The hand the King laid on her 
shoulder warmed her like the hand in her dream. She closed her eyes 
for a moment, then opened them again. 

The King was on his knees by the hearth, efficiently poking at the logs 
and fanning the embers till they sprang into a blaze. 

‘Bontemps is catching a little sleep,' he said by way of explanation 
for his incongruous occupation. ‘I don't want to let anyone else in on 
the secrecy of our conference/ 

He got to his feet and dusted off his hands. Angelique was looking 
at him as if he were a stranger who had suddenly appeared in the 
room. In his shirt-sleeves, his long embroidered waistcoat emphasising 
his manly chest, he looked like a friendly young tradesman who had 
experienced some hard times during his poverty-ridden life. The dis- 
comfort of camp life, retreats over mud-rutted roads, the wretched 
draughty castles in which the Court had taken refuge during its exodus 


in 1649, straw pallets to sleep on -was that when the young King in 
tattered breeches had learned how to build a fire to get warm? 

Angelique would never be able to see him in the same light again. 
He, too, saw that, and smiled at her. 

‘At this hour of the night we can forget the rules of etiquette. Kings 
lead a hard life accounting for every one of their actions and gestures 
to the whole world, and, I might add, to future ages. It’s an obligatory 
discipline for them, and for all who surround them and watch them, to 
submit to rules that never permit them to falter but always live up to 
what is expected of them. Night brings them the escape they must 
have. It's then I sometimes remember who and what I am/ As he 
finished, he raised his hands to his face as if to rediscover his own 

‘Is this the face he shows his mistresses?' asked Angelique. 

Suddenly the idea struck her that Madame de Montespan was not 
worthy of him. 

‘At night I become a man again,' the King went on. ‘I rather like to 
withdraw to this office and work here in peace and quiet. Think, yawn, 
talk to my dogs without having to watch that everything I say may be 
recorded for history.' He was stroking the head of his greyhound. ‘At 
night I can meet anyone I want without immediately arousing the 
courtiers' feelings which can lead to a palace revolution or even to 
international complications. Yes, night is a King’s best friend.' 

He fell silent, standing before her and leaning on the table in a 
languid attitude with his feet crossed. His hands were relaxed, for he 
had no need to make eloquent gestures with them. Angelique felt 
her admiration growing for this man who slept so litde and whose days 
were a continual round of work, yes, but also meeting people, dancing, 
walking, hunting, getting embroiled in weighty complications, giving 
his attention to the smallest details, never showing the least exhaustion. 

‘I love to see you look at me,' the King said suddenly. ‘A woman who 
looks at a man that way inspires him with courage and pride, and when 
that man is a king, it makes him want to conquer the world.' 

Angelique laughed. ‘Your people do not require so much of you, 
Sire. For you to keep them at peace and their frontiers safe is enough 
for them, it seems to me. France does not demand that you be another 
Alexander the Great.' 

That's where you are wrong. Empires endure only in proportion to 
their growth -by eternal vigilance and by hard work. Never believe 
that the obligations I have mentioned to you are burdensome to me. 
It is a fine thing to be a king, and pleasing to one who desires to quit 


himself well in all he undertakes. Naturally, it is not free of hardship, 
pain and anxiety. It's the uncertainty that what he does may not be 
right that makes him despair. He must be quick to follow the way 
he believes is best. Still, I must say that responsibility agrees with 
me . . . 

To keep one’s eyes wide open over all the earth ... to keep eternally 
posted on the latest happenings in every province and every nation . . . 
to discover the weaknesses in every court and every foreign prince and 
minister ... to be aware of an infinite number of things that he is 
thought to know nothing of ... to uncover among his own subjects 
what they think they have best concealed ... to search out the secret 
opinions of all courtiers and their most insignificant concerns that are 
reported through opposing interests ... to note some progress every 
day in glorious enterprises and the prosperity of the people for whom 
they have been undertaken ... I don’t know of any other pleasure 1 
would exchange for it if I had the chance. But I must stop, Madame. 
I am abusing your patience and your attention. I can see the moment 
coming when you will look me straight in the eye and say “I’m sleepy”.’ 

‘But I have been listening to you most attentively.’ 

‘I know that. Forgive me for teasing you. That’s why I like to have 
you near me -you know how to listen so well. You can say, “Who 
doesn’t listen to the King? Everyone is silent when he speaks.” It’s true, 
but there are many ways of listening and often I see only a servile 
audience, saying yes in stupid acquiescence. But you listen with your 
heart, with all the faculties of your intelligence and with a desire to 
understand. That is very dear to me. It is often hard for me to find 
someone to talk to when I desperately need to talk. One’s mind clarifies 
its thoughts by speaking them. Once one is talking, one’s mind un- 
consciously goes from topic to topic far better than in solitary medita- 
tion, and that is exciting and gratifying. When there is someone to 
argue with, then the mind finds a thousand new expedients. But that’s 
enough for now. I shan’t keep you longer.’ 

On a bench behind the secret door Bontemps was dozing in the light 
and fitful sleep of all servants. He was on his feet at once. Ang&ique 
retraced her way through the dark labyrinth, and once she had reached 
her rooms sent back the King’s coat by his valet. 

The candle she had left burning in her bedroom was guttering and 
casting weird shadows on the ceiling. By its light Angelique could 
discern a pale face against the wall and two hands holding a rosary 
on a lap. The older of the Gilandon girls was piously waiting for the 
return of her mistress. 


'What are you doing there?’ Angelique said in considerable annoy- 
ance. 'I did not have you called.’ 

The dog was barking. I imagined you might need something, and 
when you did not answer I was afraid you were sick.’ 

'I might just have been asleep. You have too much imagination, 
Marie-Anne. It’s a nuisance. Do I have to tell you not to mention 

'Of course not, Madame. Do you need anything?’ 

‘Well, since you’re up, you might rekindle the fire and put some 
hot coals into the warming-pan to heat up my bed. I’m frozen.’ 

'At least she won’t think I’m fresh out of someone else’s bed,’ Ange- 
lique said to herself. 'But still she has an imagination. What if she 
recognised Bontemps when he held the door for me . . .’ 

She crawled into bed, but the sleep she hoped for did not come. In 
barely three hours Madame Hamelin, the old nurse, would pass through 
the corridors of Versailles in her lace cap to draw back the curtains 
of the royal bed, and Louis XIV’s day would begin. 

His melodious voice still sounded in her ears as he revealed his 
thoughts, so private and yet so universal. She thought of how there 
was something heroic in him, like the princes of the Italian Renaissance, 
for like them he was young, self-confident, attractive, loved glory 
and beauty. The echoes of his voice haunted her. He had made her 
more a prisoner by his speeches that night than by all his kisses. 


Baktiari Bey leaped briskly into the saddle. Ceres appeared quite at 
ease under her exotic harness with its wide stirrups, and did not throw 
a glance at Angelique, who had just arrived at Suresnes. 

The Persian horsemen with daggers on their chests and scimitars at 
their sides advanced down the avenue under the grey trees. All held 
long sticks painted in bright colours as they formed a semi-circle about 
the Prince. He took a stick from his page, and rising in his wide, 
gold-fringed stirrups, led the whole troop behind him in a trot. The 
riders disappeared behind the foliage of the little park. 

Angelique felt humiliated at being left behind on the steps of the 
house without a word, although she had had her visit announced the 
same morning. Agobian, the Armenian, who had remained with her, 

They are going to come back. They will divide in front of you into 


two parallel columns and then you will see their stick drill. That is a 
contest which our warriors have been practising since long ago. His 
Excellency ordered it as a ceremony in your honour/ 

Indeed the riders had not gone far away. They could be heard 
stopping outside the village, then breaking into a trot and then into a 
frenzied gallop. They reappeared in two lines, yelling and whirling 
their heavy sticks in the air. Some were so skilful they could throw 
themselves under their horses’ bellies and immediately regain their 
saddles without falling to the ground. 

‘We call that trick djiguits and one of the best at it is His Excellency 
himself. But he is not showing off all he can do for fear of frighten- 
ing his new horse. It must grieve him not to be able to demonstrate 
his skill to you, Madame,’ explained the Armenian. 

When they came abreast of the steps, the two lines of djiguits stopped 
cold, making several of the horses skid on the snow. The lines ranged, 
themselves on the grass on opposite sides of the avenue like two 
armies. At a signal from Baktiari Bey they descended on each other, 
furiously whirling their sticks; then as they crashed together each 
rider stuck his stick under his arm like a lance to unseat his opponent 
or make him drop his weapon. Then the two sides separated, rode off, 
and dashed together again to renew the contest. Riders who were un- 
seated or lost their weapons retired to the sidelines. 

In spite of the inexperience of his horse the Ambassador was among 
the last to retire, not that his opponents showed him any favouritism, 
but because he was stronger and more agile than they. When the mock 
batde was over, he rode up to his guest with a smile on his brown face. 

‘His Excellency would like you to understand that this has been the 
favourite sport of our nation since the time of the Medes. It existed 
even in King Darius’s reign. We probably got the custom from Samar- 
cand, the capital of Turkestan, where a brilliant civilisation once 

In public Baktiari Bey pretended ignorance of French and relied on 
his interpreter. Angelique did not wish to be left behind in matters 
of erudition. 

‘Then French knights of the Middle Ages used to engage in tourna- 
ments like that,’ she remarked. 

‘They brought the custom back from their crusades.’ 

‘Soon,’ thought Angelique, ‘they are going to make me believe we 
owe our civilisation to them.’ Then on reflection she realised that, as a 
matter of fact, it was almost true. She knew little enough about it, but 
she had heard enough sermons to have learned quite a few things 


about ancient civilisations. Heir to the brilliant history of the Assyrians, 
Baktiari Bey had not yet realised he now belonged to a backward people. 

Angelique now understood what were non-controversial topics of con- 
versation. Horses was one of them. His Excellency praised Ceres once 

‘He says he has never seen a horse in his own country so tame and 
yet so spirited. The King of France has indeed honoured him with such 
a gift. At home we might offer a royal princess in exchange for such 
a horse/ 

Angelique said it was a Spanish horse. 

‘That’s a country I should greatly like to visit/ said the Ambassador. 

But he had no regrets, for his embassy had allowed him to meet not 
only the most powerful sovereign of the West, but also the beautiful 
women who frequented the court of this great monarch, and that was 
fair enough. Angelique took advantage of his good humour to ask 
when he would appear before ‘this great monarch’. 

Baktiari Bey grew thoughtful. With a sigh he explained that that 
depended partly upon his astrologer and partiy on the degree of dignity 
with which his embassy would be received. 

While they were talking they had entered the house and gone into 
the salon, which had been redecorated in the oriental style. As soon 
as the curtains at the doorway had fallen behind them, he began to 
speak in French again. 

‘I cannot present myself before the King except in a ceremony that 
would be worthy of him and of the king who sent me/ 

Isn’t that what our . . . grand vizier, the Marquis de Tercy, pro- 

‘Not at all !’ exploded the Persian. ‘He wanted to take me there like a 
prisoner in a coach surrounded by infidel guards, and then he pretended, 
that arrant liar of a vizier’s lackey, that I ought to present myself 
before the King bareheaded. That is not only undignified but in- 
solent. In such an instance one should remain covered as in a mosque 
before God Himself/ 

‘Our customs are just the reverse. We take off our hats before God 
in our churches. I suppose if a Frenchman wore shoes in front of 
your king you would make him take them off/ 

‘True. And if he had an insufficient escort we would furnish him 
with one ... to do him honour . . . and preserve the dignity of 
our Shah. Your king is a great ruler. He must honour me by grant- 
ing me a triumphal entry, worthy of his own prestige, or else I must 
return without having accomplished my mission/ 


Angelique dared ask: ‘Wouldn't you risk disgrace by failing to 
accomplish your mission?' 

1 would risk my head. But I would prefer that to public dishonour 
before your people.' 

She understood that it was a more serious situation than anyone 
realised. ‘It will be arranged,' she said. 

‘I don’t know.' 

‘It must be arranged. Or else I shall have brought bad luck to your 

‘Bravo!' shouted the Persian. 

‘Furthermore I will have committed the crime of making the holy 
man of your household lie, for he assured me I would not harm you, 
and if you should lose your head, that would be proof of his faulty 
prophecy. It would be a great humiliation for him. Am I wrong, Your 
Excellency? I am only a woman, and a foreign one at that/ 

‘You are not wrong,' said Baktiari Bey soberly, ‘and your intelligence 
surpasses even your beauty. If my mission is successful I know what 
gift I shall ask of your king . . .' 

There was a stirring behind the curtain accompanied by the piercing 
sound of fifes. 

‘My servants are coming to prepare my bath. After such violent 
exercise, it is well to bathe.' 

Two black slaves carrying a huge copper basin filled with steaming 
water entered, followed by other servants carrying towels, bottles of 
perfumed water and scented ointments. 

Baktiari Bey followed them into the adjacent room, which contained 
the Turkish bath that Dionis had built. Angelique would have greatly 
liked to get a glimpse of it, but such curiosity seemed improper to her. 
From time to time Baktiari Bey's looks made her uneasy, and the 
further she explored his Oriental mentality, the more her role as 
ambassadress seemed compromising, requiring complaisances, if not 
actual obligations, which she had. not by any means decided to consent 
to. She thought vaguely of going away. She could explain that French 
customs did not permit her to talk alone with a man for more than two 
hours. But then the Persian might fly into a rage and think her de- 
parture another insult, and that would obviously wreck all the improve- 
ments she had made in the situation. 

When she made a movement as if to rise, the little page, who had 
been ordered to amuse her, came forward, bringing her a heavy platter 
of dainties. Then he scurried off to get more cushions for her back and 
arms. He threw a pinch of powder into a little jar filled with glowing 


coals and got down on his knees to pass the incense-burner towards 
her so that she might whiff the pungent blue smoke. 

It was definitely time she should go. This room, its air heavy with 
exotic perfumes, this prince who would soon return with his dark eyes, 
his easy grace, and his dignity that concealed unsuspected rages, were 
much too seductive. 

The little page removed the lids of the silver-gilt cups and poured the 
blue porcelain flagons into them. With bird-like twitters he urged her 
to help herself. Despairing of making her understand, he lifted to her 
lips a little silver cup containing a greenish-gold liqueur. She tasted it 
and found that it was like the angelica of Poitou. 

The variety of the sweetmeats intrigued her. They were of all colours, 
including translucent pink and green jellies and pistachio nougats. 
Angelique bit into one of each kind and discarded the ones she found 
distasteful. She asked for more of the fruit sherbet that was kept cool 
in a kind of ice-house. She would have liked to smoke the narghile, but 
when the page understood what she wanted, he prevented her by roll- 
ing his eyes in terror. Then he doubled up in high-pitched laughter that 
made Angelique laugh, too. She was finding it delightful to have nothing 
to do but affect to be dignified amid all this opulence. 

She was still weak from laughing and was licking pink Turkish paste 
off her fingertips when Baktiari Bey reappeared in the doorway. He 
seemed enchanted with her. 

‘You are ravishing. . . . You remind me of one of my favourites. She 
was as greedy as a cat.’ 

He took a fruit in a cup and tossed it to the page, shouting an order. 
The boy, still laughing, caught the tip in the air and in two leaps was 
out of the room. 

That little Wise Man from the East made me drink something 
devilishly strong/ Angelique said to herself. 

Yet the sensation she was experiencing was not like drunkenness, 
but rather a vague warmth akin to true happiness. It made her ex- 
t tremely sensitive. Baktiari’s new costume did not escape her notice. He 
wore only white satin trousers fastened at his calves, and bound at his 
waist by a belt studded with precious stones. His smooth bare chest, 
anointed with sweet-smelling oils, and his muscular arms and shoulders, 
suggested the lithe strength of a panther. His black hair, glistening with 
oil, was combed straight back and fell to the nape of his neck. With a 
quick movement he kicked off his embroidered sandals and stretched 
out on the cushions. As he nonchalantly carried his pipe to his mouth, 
he fixed Angelique with a look. 


It would have been naive of her not to realise that the time for dis- 
cussing matters of protocol was past. What were they to talk about now? 
She was dying to stretch out like him on the cushions, but her rigid 
stays prevented her and kept her upright. Suddenly they seemed to 
her a symbol of caution designed to permit sinners on the brink a 
chance to reflect. On the other hand, it seemed impossible for her to 
rise and take her leave without some explanation. Furthermore, she 
did not want to. But, thanks to her stays, she had to remain upright. 
What a wonderful invention they were ! They must have been thought 
up by the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament. The thought of that 
made Angelique laugh aloud again, rocking back and forth with amuse- 

The Persian was obviously delighted with her gaiety. 

1 was thinking of your favourites/ Angelique said. Tell me how they 
dress. Do they wear gowns like these Western ones?’ 

In their own apartments or in their master’s they wear a thin, fluffy 
saroush and a short sleeveless coat. When they go out they add a thick 
black veil with a gauze opening just big enough for them to see through. 
But in private they wear only a shawl as light as a cobweb, made of the 
hair of the goats of Baluchistan/ 

Angelique was dipping her fingers again into the rose jelly. ‘What a 
strange life! What do all those cloistered women think about? What 
did the favourite - the one who’s greedy as a cat -say when you left?’ 

‘Our women say nothing - nothing whatever - about such things. 
And my favourite could say nothing for another reason. She is dead.’ 

‘Oh, I am sorry/ said Angelique, humming as she nibbled at a piece 
of fig paste. 

‘She died under the lash/ Baktiari Bey said slowly. ‘She had one of 
the palace guards as a lover/ 

‘Oh!’ said Angelique again. She laid down the piece of candy and 
looked at the Prince, her eyes wide with fright. ‘So that’s what hap- 
pened! Tell me, what other punishments do you inflict on faithless 

‘We tie them back to back with their lover and expose them on the 
topmost watch-tower of the palace. The vultures begin by eating their 
eyes, and the rest goes on a long time. I happen to be more merciful. 
I kill them by slitting their throats with my dagger. They haven’t 
actually been unfaithful but they have refused me out of caprice.' 

‘Aren’t they lucky!’ said Angelique sententiously. ‘You get them out 
of your sight and you give them admission to paradise/ 

Baktiari Bey shook with laughter. ‘Little Firouze . . . Little tur- 


quoise . . . every word that passes your lips is as fresh as the snow- 
drops that bloom in the desert at the foot of the Caucasus. Don't make 
my lesson too hard for me ... to learn to love Western women. A man 
has to talk to them a great deal, so you say, and sing the praises of his 
beloved . . . but then what? When does the time for silence come, the 
rime for long-drawn sighs?’ 

"When the lady pleases.’ 

The Persian leaped up, his face flushed with anger. ‘No ! It can’t be ! 
How can a man suffer such a humiliation! The French are brave 
warriors . . .’ 

‘They surrender in the wars of love.’ 

‘No, it can’t be true,’ he repeated. ‘When a woman receives her lord 
she must immediately disrobe and perfume her body and offer herself 
to him.’ 

With an agile bound he was next to her, and she found herself 
tumbled back among the soft cushions which melted around her body 
and enveloped it with their heady perfume. The predatory smile of 
Baktiari Bey came nearer and nearer as he held her. Angelique put 
her hands on his shoulders to push him away, but the feel of his golden- 
brown skin made her tremble. 

‘The time has not yet come,’ she said. 

‘Take care. For the least insolence a woman deserves death.' 

‘You have no right to kill me. I belong to the King of France.’ 

‘The King sent you to me for my pleasure.’ 

‘No, to honour you and to get to know you better, for he trusts my 
judgement. But if you kill me, he will chase you out of his realm in 

‘I will complain that you behaved like a shameless whore.’ 

‘The King will not believe you.’ 

‘He sent you for me to possess.’ 

‘No, I keep telling you. He can’t do such a thing.’ 

‘Who can then?’ 

She fixed him with her emerald eyes. ‘Only I can.’ 

The Prince relaxed his grip on her and looked at her perplexedly. 

Angelique could not sit up again, the cushions were too yielding. She 
began to laugh. She saw no trouble ahead, rather everything seemed 
clearly etched as if the room had been invaded with sunlight. 

There is a world of difference,’ she murmured, ‘between a woman 
saying yes and a woman saying no. When she says yes, it is a great 
victory and the men of my nation like to fight to win her.’ 

‘I understand,’ said the Prince after a moment of thought. 


‘So, please help me up/ she said, extending her hand to him un- 

He obeyed like, she thought, a great wild beast suddenly tamed. His 
shining eyes never left her. His strength was triggered to pounce upon 
her if she showed the slightest sign of weakening. 

‘What does a man have to have to make a woman say yes?’ 

She almost answered: ‘He has to be as wild and handsome as you / His 
nearness was overpowering her. How many times would she be able to 
play this dangerous game? Shivers ran through her flesh, as if she had 
a fever, but she felt only a sort of frustration of desire that could be 
appeased by a mad embrace alone. She was aware of how desirable his 
smile was to her, his moist lips and his wandering eyes, and she would 
have loved to be seized by him again. Still she wondered how long she 
could balance on this tight-rope and on what side she would fall - the 
yes side or the no. 

Baktiari Bey filled a silver cup and held it out to her. Angelique felt 
the metal cool against her lips and recognised the greenish liquor. 

‘It’s every woman’s secret to know why one man pleases her because 
he’s dark, and another because he’s fair.’ 

Holding the cup at arm’s length she inverted it and poured the liquor 
in a thin green stream on the gorgeous oriental rug. 

‘Chaitsoum!’ 1 hissed the Prince between his teeth. 

‘. . . or one because he is gentle and the other because he could kill 
her with a blow of his dagger in his rage/ 

She had finally managed to rise. She assured His Excellency that she 
was overjoyed with her visit and that she would try to make the King 
understand the essence of his grievances, for they seemed reasonable 
and justified to her. With a threatening look in his eyes Bakriari Bey 
said it was the custom of his country to seal a friendship by housing a 
guest ‘as long as the friendship remained’. 

Angelique shook her head. A curl of her blond hair hung down over 
her forehead, and her eyes were sparkling like champagne. His Excel- 
lency was right, but she had to obey the same precept. He should under- 
stand that because she had deep obligations to her own King, she had 
to return to him and remain there as long as their friendship lasted. 

‘Shac!’ 2 he said, as if cursing. 

A sing-song voice rose outside, piercing the heavy draperies of the 

‘Isn’t it time for your evening prayers? I wouldn’t have a foreign 

1. ‘She-devil!’ 

2. ‘Stubborn mule!’ 


woman make you miss your devotions for anything in the world. What is 
he chanting?’ 

* Chaitsoum !’ repeated the Ambassador. 

Angelique smoothed down her skirts, fixed her disordered hair, and 
picked up her fan. 

‘I shall defend your point of view at Versailles and try to smooth over 
all the difficulties of protocol. But may I take back with me your promise 
to protect the twenty Catholic missions in Persia?’ 

‘That was my intention for the treaty. Wouldn’t your religion and 
your priests feel disgraced at being saved by a woman’s intervention?’ 

‘In spite of all your pride, Your Excellency, it was a woman who 
brought you into the world.’ 

The Persian was speechless, but he smiled in admiration. ‘You are 
fit to be a sultana-bachi .’ 

‘What is that, for heaven’s sake?’ 

‘The title given to a woman bom to dominate kings. There is only 
one in each seraglio. She is never chosen. She is there because she has 
ways of ensnaring the body and soul of the ruler. He can do nothing 
without consulting her. She is superior to all the other women, and it 
is only her son who can succeed to the throne.’ 

He led her up to the silken door curtain. ‘The first trait of a sultana- 
bachi is that she knows no fear. The second, that she knows the worth 
of what she gives.’ 

With a sudden gesture he stripped all the rings from his fingers and 
piled them into her hands. ‘These are for you. You are the most precious. 
You deserve to be decked as an idol.’ 

Angelique blinked in rapture at the rubies, emeralds and diamonds 
set in fine gold, but as rapidly as he had given them to her, she returned 
them to him. ‘Impossible!’ 

‘Are you adding one more insult to all those you have offered me?’ 

‘In my country when a woman says no, she says no to gifts also.’ 

Baktiari Bey heaved a long sigh, but he did not try to dissuade her. 
As Angelique smiled, he slipped the rings back on his fingers one by 

‘Look,’ she said, extending her hand, ‘I am keeping this one, for you 
gave it to me as a token of our alliance. Its colour has not changed.’ 

‘Madame Turquoise, when will I see you again?’ 

‘At Versailles, Excellency.’ 

Once she was outside, everything seemed horribly dreary to her - the 
muddy road, the clouds hanging low over the shabby snow. It was cold. 
She had forgotten it was winter and that she was in France, and that 


she had to go back to Versailles to report on her mission, parade around, 
listen to endless gossip, be cold, have her feet and legs ache, and lose 
her money gambling. She twisted her handkerchief savagely. She was 
on the point of bursting into tears. 

1 liked it there on the cushions. Yes, I would have liked . . . that. To 
forget, to yield to love without restraint and without thinking of the 
consequences. Oh, what did God give me a brain for? Why can’t I just 
be an animal that doesn’t ask questions?’ 

She was furious with the King. All during her visit she could not 
rid herself of the feeling that the King was using her as an adventuress 
whose body might be useful for diplomacy. During the previous reign 
Richelieu had excelled in using intelligent women as conspirators, when 
they were light-moralled and beautiful and possessed by a devil of 
intrigue, and adored to be in the thick of things and to compromise and 
. . . prostitute themselves for master strategies whose end they never 
clearly saw. Madame de Chevreuse, the old friend of Anne of Austria, 
whom Angelique had met at Court, was one of the few survivors of that 
species. Always on the alert for a role to play, her beautiful eyes watch- 
ing under their now wrinkled lids for the merest hint of a conspiracy, 
affecting an air of mystery about every least bit of news, she was an 
object of pity and ridicule to the young members of the Court. Ange- 
lique could see herself like that some day soon, no one listening to her, 
wearing one of those big plumed military hats now so out of fashion. 

She was almost weeping with self-pity. So that’s what the King wanted 
to turn her into 1 Now that he had ‘his’ Montespan, what did he care 
where Angelique was or whom she gave her favours to? All she had 
to do was ‘serve’ the royal interests 1 


‘The King has said no,’ someone flung at her as soon as she set foot 
on the first step of the staircase leading to the royal apartments. 

‘About what?’ 

‘The marriage of Peguilin and Mademoiselle. Everything’s over and 
done with. Yesterday die Prince and the Due d’Enghien, his son, threw 
themselves at His Majesty’s feet to prove to him what a dishonour such 
a base alliance would be to princes of the blood like them. They would 
be the joke of all the Courts of Europe, and he himself, who had just 
begun to make the world tremble, would be thought a monarch with no 
sense of dynastic dignity. Actually the King was rather inclined to 

their point of view anyway, and so he said No! This morning he told 
the Grande Mademoiselle. She burst into tears and fled in desperation 
to the Luxembourg Palace for refuge/ 

‘Poor Mademoiselle!’ 

In the Queen’s antechamber Angelique found Madame de Montespan 
completing her toilet with the help of all her suite. Her gown was of 
scarlet velvet embroidered with gold and silver and studded with 
precious stones, and she was preoccupied with arranging a long white 
silk stole so that it would hang as she wished. Louise de la Valliere was 
on her knees, helping pin her. 

‘No, not like that, like this! Help me, for heaven’s sake, Louise. 
You’re the only one who can fix this silk properly, it’s so slippery. 
But it is lovely, isn’t it?’ 

Angelique was amazed to see how docilely Louise de la Valliere took 
to being a follower, checking by a glance into the pier-glass whether a 
fold might not be more appropriate than a loop. 

There, that’s it, I think. Good for you, Louise, you’ve got it exacdy 
right. I could never do without you when it comes to getting dressed. 
The King is so demanding! But you have a magic touch, thanks to 
Madame de Lorraine and Madame d’Orleans. They taught you taste 
when you were in their suite. What do you think, Madame du Plessis?’ 

T think it’s perfect,’ Angelique muttered. 

She was trying to kick aside one of the Queen’s lapdogs that had been 
yapping at her ever since she came in. 

‘He doesn’t like your black outfit,’ Athenais said as she turned this 
way and that in front of her looking-glass. ‘What a pity you have to 
wear mourning! It doesn’t become you, do you think, Louise?’ 

La Valliere, who had got on her knees again to help her rival, raised 
her pale, watery blue eyes towards Angelique. ‘I think Madame du 
Plessis looks even handsomer in black.’ 

‘Better than I do in red, perhaps?’ 

Louise de la Valliere did not reply. 

‘Answer me,’ Athenais screamed, her eyes darkening like the sea in a 
storm. ‘Admit it, this red doesn’t suit me/ 

‘Blue is more your colour/ 

‘Why didn’t you say so sooner, you stupid idiot? Help me out of it! 
Desceillet, Papy, get me out of this dress ! Catherine, run get my satin 
gown, the one I wear with my diamonds!’ 

It was hard to tell who was making more noise, the dog or Madame 
de Montespan as she tried to step out of her skirts alone. Just then, in 
came the King in his Court costume except for his great robe em- 


broidered with fleur-de-lis, which he never put on till the last moment 
before his state appearance. He was coming from the Queen’s apart- 
ments, and Bontemps was with him. 

‘Not ready yet, Madame?’ he frowned. ‘Hurry up. The King of 
Poland will be here any moment, and you must be at my side.’ 

Madame dc Montespan stared at him indignantly. Her royal lover 
had not accustomed her to his strictness, and he was in a bad humour, 
for the pain he had inflicted on his cousin, the Grande Mademoiselle, 
troubled his conscience. Now to have his favourite complain so violently 
that he was putting her to a great deal of trouble to find a suitable gown 
did not soften his mood. 

‘You should have taken care of that long ago.’ 

‘How was I to know Your Majesty wouldn’t like my red dress? Oh, 
this is unfair!’ 

The King tried to raise his voice above the cacophony she and the 
dog were making. ‘Don’t get into a state. There isn’t time. At any rate, 
while I think to tell you, we are leaving for Fontainebleau tomorrow, so 
please make your preparations in time.’ 

‘Should I also prepare to go to Fontainebleau, Sire?’ asked Made- 
moiselle de la Valliere. 

Louis XIV looked darkly at the emaciated figure of his former 
mistress. ‘No,’ he said rudely. ‘There’s no point in your going.’ 

‘But what shall I do, then?’ she groaned. 

‘Stay at Versailles. Or else go to Saint-Germain.’ 

Mademoiselle de la Valliere sank on to a bench and dissolved into 
tears. ‘Alone? Without anyone to keep me company?’ 

The King caught the little dog which was annoying him and threw it 
into her lap. ‘Here’s company quite good enough for you.’ 

He walked past Angelique without making any sign of recognition. 
Then, on second thought, he asked her brusquely: ‘Did you go to 
Suresnes yesterday?’ 

‘No, Sire,’ she said in the same tone. 

‘Where did you go?’ 

‘To Saint-Germain Fair.’ 

‘What for?’ 

‘To get some waffles.’ 

The King's face flushed up to the very edge of his wig. He sailed 
into the adjacent room, while Bontemps quietly held the other door 
open for the ladies-in-waiting who were going for the blue gown. 

Angelique went over to Mademoiselle de la Valliere, who was sob- 
bing sofdy. 


‘Why do you let him torment you so? Why do you take these humilia- 
tions? Madame de Montespan is playing with you like a cat with a 
mouse, and the more docile you are, the more relentless you make 

The poor girl raised her streaming eyes to her. ‘You have betrayed 
me, too/ she choked. 

T never swore fealty to you/ Angelique replied sadly, ‘and I never 
pretended to be your friend. You are mistaken, I did not betray you, 
and my honest advice is leave the Court. Retire with dignity. Why be 
the laughing-stock of these heartless people?’ 

For a moment her tear-stained face took on the holy light of a 
martyr’s. ‘My sin was done in public, Madame, and so it must please 
God to punish me in public/ 

‘Rossuet would find you a good penitent. But do you really think God 
demands such suffering? You’ll lose your health, your sanity/ 

‘The King won’t let me enter a convent. I have often asked him to/ 
She glanced at the door he had just slammed so violently. ‘Perhaps he 
still loves me/ she mumbled. ‘Perhaps he will come back to me some 

Angelique restrained herself from shrugging her shoulders. A page 
had just come in and was bowing before her. 

‘Please be so good as to follow me, Madame. The King is asking 
for you/ 

Between the King’s bedroom and the Council Chamber lay the room 
in which his wigs were kept. It was not often that a woman saw it. 
Louis XIV was choosing a wig under the guidance of his hairdresser 
Binet and his assistants. All around were glass cases storing the various 
wigs the King wore when going to Mass, or hunting, or receiving an 
embassy or going for a walk in the park. Rows on rows of dummy 
plaster heads kept them in shape or held them while they were being 

Binet was suggesting that his august client wear the wig called ‘the 
royal’, which was dressed very high and was so majestic that it seemed 
more fitting for a statue than a living being. 

‘No/ said the King. ‘Let us keep that for extremely important occa- 
sions - the reception for the Persian Ambassador, for instance/ 

He looked up at Angelique. She made a deep curtsy. 

‘Come here, Madame. You were at Suresnes yesterday, weren’t 

He had recovered his customary suavity, and his unctuously theatrical 
gestures, but he needed more than that to soothe Angelique’s temper. 


Binet withdrew with his apprentices to the far end of the room to 
search for the proper wig. He had acquired the tact of a true courtier. 

"Give me some explanation for your insolence/ the King said in a low- 
voice. ‘I fail to recognise one of the most agreeable ladies of the Court/ 

‘And I fail to recognise the most courteous monarch in the world/ 

*1 love to see your anger make your eyes shine and your little nose 
twitch. I suppose I was a little rude/ 

‘You were . . . despicable. All you needed was the Queen to make you 
look just like a cock on a dunghill/ 

‘Madame. . . 1 You are addressing the King!’ 

‘No, merely a man who toys with a woman's heart/ 

‘What woman's?' 

‘Mademoiselle de la Valliere . . . Madame de Montespan ... I 
myself ... all women, as a matter of fact/ 

‘That's a very subtle game you’re accusing me of. How does anyone 
know a woman's heart? La Valliere has too much. Madame de 
Montespan hasn't enough. As for you, if I could only be sure I were 
toying with your heart! But it hasn't been reached yet.' 

Angelique hung her head. He had hit the mark. She waited for the 
final blow which would drive her from him for ever. 

‘It's a naughty head that will not bend/ said the King. 

She raised her eyes. The sadness of his voice disconcerted her. 

‘Nothing has gone right today,' he said. ‘I was greatly upset by 
Mademoiselle's despair when I told her I had decided I had to take the 
matter of her marriage under consideration again. She is fond of you, 
I think. Go and comfort her.' 

‘What about Monsieur de Lauzun?' 

‘I don’t know poor Peguilin's reactions yet. I suspect he is in the 
depths of despair. He was cruelly disappointed. But I know how to 
make it up to him. Did you see Baktiari Bey?' 

‘Yes, Sire,' said Angelique. 

‘How are things going?’ 

‘Very well, I think/ 

The door burst open to reveal Lauzun, his eyes popping and his wig 

‘Sire/ he blurted without any excuse for his interruption, ‘I come to 
ask Your Majesty what I have done to deserve such dishonour at your 

‘Come, come, old, man, calm down/ said the King gently. He 
apparently felt his favourite's wrath was justifiable. 

‘No, Sire, no, I cannot bear such humiliation.' Melodramatically he 


drew his sword and handed it to the King. ‘You have robbed me of my 
honour, now take my life, too. Take it 1 I'm sick of living. I hate life 1 ’ 

‘Control yourself, sir/ 

‘No, no, this is the end. Take it, I say. Kill me, Sire, kill me!’ 

‘Peguilin, I know how disappointing all this is for you, but I will make 
it up to you. I will raise you so high that you will have no more 
regrets over the match I have forbidden/ 

T do not want your gifts, Sire. I can accept nothing from a prince who 
has gone back on his word/ 

‘Monsieur de Lauzun!’ roared the King in a voice that vibrated like 
a sword-blade. 

Angelique let out a litde scream of fright. Lauzun noticed her for 
the first time and turned his rage on her. 

‘So you're here, you little fool I How could you be so stupid! Where 
did you run off to yesterday to peddle your body after I had begged you 
to keep an eye on the movements of the Prince and his son?' 

‘That will do, sir/ said the King icily. ‘Leave at once. I can excuse 
your state of mind, but I do not wish you at Court if you cannot be 
resigned to your lot/ 

‘Resigned! Ha! Resigned 1 How you love that word, Sire! You want 
nothing but slaves about you. If by some whim or other you let them 
raise their heads an inch, it’s only on condition they lower them again 
and prostrate themselves in the dust as soon as your mood changes. . . . 
I beseech Your Majesty to let me go. I shall always be glad to serve you, 
but I will never cringe . . / 

Lauzun stalked out without taking leave in any fashion. 

The King looked at Angelique coldly. 

‘Shall I go, Sire?’ she asked, feeling very uncomfortable. 

He nodded. 

‘. . . and don't forget to go to console Mademoiselle as soon as you 
return to Paris/ 

‘I will, Sire/ 

The King walked over to his looking-glass. ‘If this were August, 
Monsieur Binet, I would say the weather was stormy/ 

‘Indeed, Sire/ 

‘Unfortunately it is not August/ sighed the King. ‘Have you made 
your choice, Monsieur Binet?’ 

‘Yes, Sire, a most attractive wig. The two rows of curls along the 
centre line add neither to its height nor to its width. I am calling it “the 

Terfect. You always think of just the right thing. Monsieur Binet/ 


‘Madame du Plessis-Belliere often complimented me for that, too. 
Pray bend your head a little, Sire, so that I may set the wig in place/ 
‘Ah, I remember, it was through Madame du Plesiss that you came 
to me. She recommended you to me. I gather she had known you a long 

‘Yes, quite a long time, Sire/ 

The King looked into the mirror framed in gilded bronze. ‘What do 
you think?’ 

‘Sire, she is the only one worthy of Your Majesty/ 

‘You don’t understand. I was speaking of the wig/ 

‘So was I, Sire,’ replied Binet, lowering his eyes. 

When she entered the great salon Angelique asked whom they were 
waiting for. All the courtiers were in their best, but no one knew in 
whose honour. 

‘I bet it’s the Russians,’ Madame de Choisy said to her. 

‘Are you sure it isn’t the King of Poland? The King mentioned him 
a few moments ago to Madame de Montespan,’ said Angelique, happy 
to have information straight from the best source. 

‘It’s an embassy in any case. The King has lifted the ban on all 
foreign noblemen. Look at that fellow with his barbarous moustache, the 
one staring at you. He makes my blood run cold!’ 

Angelique unconsciously turned her head in the direction Madame 
de Choisy had indicated, and recognised the Hungarian Prince Rakoczy, 
whom she had met at Saint-Mande. At once he crossed the room to bow 
to her. He was dressed for the occasion in a wig and red heels, but he 
had exchanged his sword for a dagger whose chased hilt was set with 
blue stones and bound in gold. 

‘Ah, the archangel!’ he said. ‘Madame, will you grant me a few 
moments of conversation?’ 

Angelique wondered whether he was going to ask her to marry him 
again, but since, in such a crowd, she had no fear that he might 
abduct her, she followed him obligingly into a bay window near by. 
The blue stones in the hilt of his dagger reminded her vaguely of some- 

‘They are Persian turquoises,’ he explained. 

‘In Persian they’re called Firouze. 9 

‘Do you know Persian? Chouma pharzi harf mizanitT 

Angelique made an indefinite gesture. ‘It’s a very handsome dagger/ 

‘It’s all I have left of my former wealth,’ he said in a half-embarrassed, 

half-proud voice. ‘This and my horse Hospadar. Hospadar has always 
been my faithful companion. Thanks to him, I got across the frontier, 
but ever since I’ve been in France I’ve had to leave him in a stable in 
Versailles. The Parisians make fun of him every time they see him.’ 

‘Why is that?’ 

‘When you see Hospadar you will understand.’ 

‘What did you wish to say to me, Prince?’ 

‘Nothing. I just wanted to look at you a while, get you away from the 
crowd so that I could have you all to myself.’ 

‘That’s quite an undertaking, Prince. Versailles has seldom been more 

‘Your smile makes dimples in your cheeks. You smile easily, I notice, 
even when there is hardly any reason for smiling. What are you doing 
here now?’ 

Angelique looked at him puzzled. His words always seemed to take 
an unexpected turn which disturbed her. Perhaps it was because, well 
as he knew French, he did not understand all its nuances. 

‘Why . . . I am a Maid at the Court. I must be here.’ 

‘What a stupid occupation !’ 

‘It has its good sides, Mister Evangelist. What do you expect? Women 
don’t have the necessary qualities for fomenting revolutions. They like 
to see and be seen, and it suits them to adorn the Court of a great king. 
I don’t know of anything more diverting. Life at Versailles is never 
dull. There is something new every day. For instance, do you know whom 
we are expecting now?’ 

‘No, I do not. One of the Swiss guards brought me word to the stable 
where I live with Hospadar that I should come to Court today. I hoped 
to have an interview with the King.’ 

‘Has he received you yet?' 

‘Several times. Your King is no despot, but a good friend. He will give 
me aid to liberate my fatherland.’ 

Angelique was fanning herself as she looked around. The press was 
increasing every minute. Little Aliman, a half-breed she had bought 
for a page, was dripping with sweat as he held the heavy train of her 
emerald green dress embroidered in silver. She told him to let it drop 
for a while. She had been wrong to get so young a boy; now she would 
have to get another, older one, or else another of the same age to help 
Aliman carry her train. A jet-black negro and a light brown one, dressed 
either in different colours or the same, would be terribly amusing. She 
would be a succes fou. 

Then she noticed that Rakoczy was still talking. 


She cut him off. ‘That's all very well, but you still haven't told me 
whom we have been asked to honour in such numbers. Some say it's 
the Russian Ambassador.' 

The Hungarian's face turned livid with hatred and his eyes became 
two black slits. ‘Russians, did you say? I shall never be able to bear being 
so close to them. They invaded my country.' 

1 thought it was the Emperor and the Turks you hated.’ 

‘Don’t you know the Ukrainians have seized Budapest, our capital?' 

Angelique humbly confessed that she did not know it and that she 
had not the faintest idea what Ukrainians were. 

‘You must think I am very silly,’ she said, ‘but I'd bet a hundred 
pistoles most Frenchmen don't know any more about it than I.’ 

Rakoczy shook his head sadly. ‘Alas, how far removed these great 
Westerners are from our troubles, and yet we look to them for aid! Just 
knowing a language is not enough to break down the barriers between 
peoples. I speak French well, don't I?’ 

‘Excellently,’ she agreed. 

‘And yet no one understands me here.' 

‘I am sure the King will understand you. He knows everything that 
goes on in all the nations of the world.' 

‘But he weighs them in the scale of his ambitions. Let us hope I shall 
not prove too light.' 

A movement of the crowd indicated that the important visitor was 
arriving. They left their alcove and moved towards the rest. 

Angelique searched Rakoczy's face for the answer to the question she 
had asked him. He looked as if he had turned to stone. 

‘The Russians !' he said. Then he seized her wrist so hard she thought 
he would snap it, and leaning down to her said: ‘That man in the 
centre is Dorochenko, the Hetman of the Ukraine, the first man to enter 

She felt him begin to quiver like a horse afraid. ‘The insult is . . . 
unpardonable,' he said, ashy white. 

‘Prince, I beg you, don't make a scene. Don't forget that you are at 
the Court of France.’ 

He did not seem to hear her, but fixed his eyes on the new arrivals as 
if they were thundering over the steppes instead of in the full light of 
Versailles. Suddenly he backed away and was swallowed up in the dense 
crowd of the French nobles. 

Angelique breathed a sigh of relief. She had begun to worry lest some 
dsturbance of his might spoil the fascinating scene. She did not want 
him to implicate himself and draw the King's wrath. The King had 

»79 k 

been unwise to let a revolutionary into his Court. Anything could be 
expected of a person like that. 

Every three steps the Russian delegation bowed low in oriental saluta- 
tions. The subservience of their bows contrasted sharply with their 
imperious looks. Angelique could not fail to see the power concealed in 
the limber spines of these wild beasts, tamed now, but ready to spring. 
They gave her gooseflesh. Rakoczy had infected her with some of his 
strange hysteria. She was afraid of an unknown something which would 
flash out like a thunderbolt and reduce Versailles to rubble. 

Glancing at the King, she was relieved to see him unmoved and 
majestic as only he knew how to be. The ‘ambassador’ wig that Rinet 
had contrived was quite the equal in height to the Russians’ bonnets. 

Monsieur de Pomponne stepped forward. He had been Ambassador 
to Poland and hence knew Russian and could serve as interpreter. After 
the customary exchange of compliments the delegation presented the 
gifts they had brought from Russia: three bearskins - black, yellow and 
brown -from the Urals; white and blue sable skins from Siberia; a vast 
number of beaver pelts; an enormous blanket of black astrakhan made 
of over five hundred skins of new-born lambs found only in the herds 
that grazed on the shores of the Caspian Sea; curious tinfoil- wrapped 
bricks of red and green tea, tribute paid by the Emperor of China from 
the time of Ivan the Terrible to that of Alexis. 

The Queen, for once sufficiently stimulated to make an intelligent 
comment, said she had heard about the tea and that it would cure more 
than twenty different ailments. She went into ecstasies over the precious 
stones, especially an emerald as big as a sugar-loaf, and a blue six- 
faceted beryl from the Urals that took four men to carry it, since it was 
as high as a mounting-block. 

The short-pile rugs from Bokhara and the long-pile ones from Khiva 
were unrolled, and the bolts of vivid red and yellow silk unfurled. There 
was also gossamer silk from Turkestan as well as heavy coverlets made 
of many-coloured patchwork. One of the members of the delegation 
himself knelt before the King to offer him a huge nugget of gold from 
Lake Baikal, resting on a white satin cushion. 

Everyone kept exclaiming in wonder. The women even dared touch 
the rugs and the silks, but it was the gigantic blue beryl that aroused the 
most admiration. 

Then the Rusians explained that having heard of the King’s love of 
rare animals, they had brought him a pair of Punjab goats from whose 
hair were made the cashmere shawls of India. 

The King thanked them warmly, 


An extremely rare white Siberian tiger, they said, was waiting in the 
marble courtyard to salute its new master after its uncomfortable trip 
from the snow-covered steppes where it too reigned as a monarch. This 
announcement raised the excitement to fever pitch. The servants had 
to hurry and clear the gifts away to allow passage for the King and the 
Ambassador and the whole Court to move out to the stairway. 

Then it happened. A little shaggy-coated horse, as black as if it 
had leapt from the jaws of hell, dashed up the stairs to the very top. The 
rider rose in his stirrups and shouted something in a strange tongue, 
which he subsequently repeated in Russian and then in French. 

‘Long live Liberty ! 9 

He raised his arm. A dagger whizzed through the air and stuck 
quivering in the floor at the feet of the Hetman of the Ukraine. Then 
the horseman wheeled and dashed down the marble stairway. 

‘On a horse 1 He rode up on a horse, and then down again ... It 
couldn’t have been a horse . . . Yes, it was, what they call a pony . . . 
Impossible ! A horse couldn’t gallop up a flight of stairs ! . . .’ 

The French could see in it only an extraordinary feat of horseman- 
ship. But the Russians were gazing impenetrably at the dagger. The 
King was speaking through Pomponne in a level voice. His palace, he 
said, was open to his people, for the people have a right to see their 
King. He also welcomed foreigners to France. In spite of the precautions 
of his police an unseemly incident like this one sometimes happened - 
madmen, cranks whose designs could not be guessed in advance, could 
perpetrate such inexplicable things. Thanks be to God, this was not 
serious. The man could be pursued, brought back and imprisoned. If 
he turned out to be insane, he would be confined at Ricetre, and if he 
was sane, he would, in all likelihood, be hanged. It meant nothing at 
all, really. 

The Russians remarked haughtily that the man had spoken in Hun- 
garian. They wanted to know his name. 

‘Thank God, they did not recognise him ! ’ thought Angelique. She was 
shaking so her teeth chattered. Everyone else thought the whole thing 
rather a joke, but the dagger still stuck in the floor, and no one 
budged. At last a little creature, all iridescent pink and green like a 
tropical bird, swooped down on the dagger and disappeared with it It 
was Aliman, who, on a signal from Angelique, had spirited the weapon 

The procession moved on and descended into the courtyard, where the 
royal tiger was pacing in a huge cage mounted on a wagon drawn by 
four horses. The sight of the magnificent beast banished all hostile 


thoughts. It was taken in great pomp to the menagerie at the end of 
the Royal Avenue near the Grove of the Dome, an octagonal pavilion 
that fanned out into seven courtyards, each one devoted to a different 
kind of animal. The Siberian tiger from then on would have as neigh- 
bours a Numidian lion sent by the Sultan of Morocco, and two Indian 
elephants. Pomponne acted as interpreter between the zoo-keepers and 
the slant-eyed Siberian guards. For everyone’s benefit he translated their 
instructions as to the care and feeding of the new inhabitant of the 
menagerie, who proceeded to enter his new home with considerable good 

On his return the King paid a visit to his gardens. 

Madame de Sevigne wrote to her cousin, Bussy-Rabutin: 

T want you to share our fun ! Today we had a great scandal in the 
Court of France. I saw it and I now understand how wars can break out 
in the antechambers of kings. With my own eyes I saw the firebrand 
himself. I was thrilled, and almost proud. Can you imagine a mounted 
horseman at Versailles? “That’s not strange,” you say. But this one 
dashed right into the great hall you know so well where the King was 
receiving the Russian embassy. Now, try to tell me there’s nothing un- 
usual about that! And what’s stranger yet is that he galloped his horse. 
What do you think of that? That I’m dreaming? No, five hundred 
persons saw it as well as I. 

‘He hurled a dagger. No, I am not dreaming, and you don’t need to 
worry about my sanity. 

‘The dagger stuck right at the feet of the ambassador, and no one 
knew what to do. It was then that I began to see the brand burst into 
flame. The foot that stamped it out is a tiny one. It belongs to Madame 
du Plessis-Belli&re, whom you met at my house and who aroused just 
a tiny bit of passion in you. So, you see, this story should give you a 
double pleasure. 

‘She had the brilliant idea of signalling to her page, a little negro so 
quick that he whisked the dagger off like a sleight-of-hand artist on the 
Pont-Neuf. Then everyone breathed a little easier. Peace returned with 
an olive branch in her hand, and we all moved on to see the wild 

‘Now, what do you make of this little story? 

‘Madame du Plessis is one of those women kings need to have about 
them. I think the King has known that for a long time. So much the 


worse for our victor, Canto . 1 . . . Still we can be sure she won’t be 
dethroned without putting up a fight. And so we can expect plenty of 
diversion at Versailles/ 

Angelique was not invited to Fontainebleau. But she did not forget 
that the King had advised her to go to comfort the Grande Made- 
moiselle, and so she returned to Paris. 

In her coach she drew out of the folds of her gown the Hungarian 
prince’s dagger and studied it with mixed feelings of concern and satis- 
faction. She was glad she had spirited it away. The ‘revolutionary’ did 
not deserve to have it fall into other hands, for she was perhaps his 
only friend in the kingdom. 

Noticing that the Gilandon girls sitting on either side of her were 
looking at the dagger with as much interest as their vegetable-like 
minds permitted, she asked them if they knew what had become of the 
man on the pony. The two girls actually came to life a little. Like 
everyone else at Versailles, from the lowest scullion to the High 
Chamberlain, they had been thrilled at being present at a ‘diplomatic 
incident’. No, they said, the revolutionary had not been arrested. He 
had been seen galloping off towards the forest after he descended the 
staircase. The guards who had gone after him returned empty-handed 
and stammering excuses. 

‘So he escaped them,’ Angelique thought. ‘Good!’ 

But she reproached herself for such a thought. For one thing, such 
behaviour deserved to be punished. But it had been a splendid gesture 
just the same. She was secretly proud of it. Louis XIV had wanted to 
play cat-and-mouse to test the submissiveness of his slaves. Now he 
had to cope with Prince Rakoczy and with Lauzun. Would Lauzun 
be arrested? Where could Rakoczy run for refuge? He would be recog- 
nised everywhere because of his little wild horse like those the Huns 
had once ridden right up to the gates of Paris. 

‘Wasn’t it Saint Genevieve who kept the Huns from entering Paris?’ 
Angelique asked the Gilandon girls. 

‘Yes, Madame,’ they answered politely. 

Nothing ever astonished them. This was one of their assets. Their 
completely banal appearance and personality sheltered Angelique from 
the disagreeable intrigues of companions who were too bold or 
ambitious. Their society hardly amused her, but Angelique did not 
mind that. She was unlike most great ladies in that she did. not have to 
have someone to talk to every minute of the day. To be alone with 

1 The name Madame de S6vign6 in her letters gave Madame de Montespan. 

2 % 

themselves was one of the greatest tortures imaginable for them, and to 
protect themselves from ever having to face such an odious eventuality 
they kept a companion just to read to them till they fell asleep or to keep 
them company in case they had insomnia. 

Angelique took advantage of the Gilandon girls’ natural aversion to 
conversation to do a little meditating. 

The coach rumbled along through the forests of Meudon and Saint- 
Cloud. The cold, thick winter’s night closed in around the torches so 
that one could not see beyond their misty haloes anything but the fog- 
enshrouded branches. 

Where could Rakoczy be? Angelique leaned her head back against 
the velvet covering of the seat. When she was alone with herself like 
this, her nerves would throb right down to her fingertips. She thought 
of the green liqueur the crafty Baktiari Bey had given her to drink in 
an all too obvious attempt to thaw her. Surely it was an aphrodisiac. 

The thought made Angelique realise she needed a lover or she would 
get sick. She had been silly to resist the handsome Persian’s advances. 
What had made her do it? What lord and master was she keeping herself 
for? Who worried about her life? She had not realised how free she 
was . . . 

The thought came to her more and more often in Paris, where the 
loneliness of her hotel and her empty bedroom depressed her. She pre- 
ferred to stay at Versailles and rush from the end of a ball to early 
Mass in the heart of the vast drowsy palace. Night to her was full of 
passion and romance. There one could be part of a whole, never left to 
one’s own fate. 

To one’s sad fate?’ thought Angelique as she paced her room like 
the Siberian tiger in its cage. 

Why hadn’t she been invited to Fontainebleau? Was the King afraid 
of displeasing Madame de Montespan? What did the King want of her? 
What destiny was he pushing her toward with his sly, implacable hand? 
What sort of life were you created for, sister Angelique? 

She halted in the middle of her room. 

*. . . The King!’ she said aloud. 

Her steward Roger came to ask what she would like for dinner. She 
looked at him a little wildly. She was not hungry. Marie-Anne de 
Gilandon came to offer her some herb tea. Angelique suddenly wanted 
to slap her, as if the suggestion was the peak of her mortification. Just 
to be contrary, she asked for a bottle of plum brandy. She tossed off two 
glasses one right after the other. Alcohol is a wonderful cure for the 


Rakoczy’s dagger lay on the table. Angelique went to her mother- 
of-pearl-inlaid ebony desk with its dozens of drawers and took out a 
casket which she opened to put the weapon into it. 

Any prying servant who had wanted to know what treasure Madame 
du Plessis-Belliere kept so carefully hidden in that casket would have 
been completely astonished and disappointed at finding such hetero- 
geneous, valueless articles. But they had a meaning all their own for 
her. They were like sea-shells washed up on the beach of her past by 
waves of a stormy sea. Many times she had wanted to get rid of them, 
but she could never bring herself to throw them away. 

Angelique drank another glass of brandy. The blue stone on her finger 
shone with a soft lustre beside those adorning the hilt of Rakoczy’s 

1 am under the sign of the turquoise/ she thought. 

Two swarthy faces rose before her eyes -that of the rich Persian 
Prince and that of the poverty-ridden Hungarian. 

She wanted to see Rakoczy again. What he had done revealed him 
to her in his true colours. His rashness was not absurd but inspiring. 
How was it that she had not been able to discern the quality of a hero 
in his words? Had she grown so used to hearing nothing but twaddle 
that she had lost the power to recognise a real man when she saw 

Poor Rakoczy! Where could he be? She almost sobbed as she thought 
of him. She had another brandy. Now, perhaps, she could go to bed 
and sleep. How dreary it was to be alone! 

If she went back to Suresnes with a ‘Yes’ on her lips, would she see 
the end of her torments? She dreamed of finding forgetfulness in a 
sensual delirium. Tm only a woman after all. Why struggle against 
my fate?’ 

She shouted at her mirror. ‘I am beautiful !’ 

Then she grew sad at her reflection. Toor Angelique . . . why so, so 

She drank another brandy. ‘And now that I’m quite drunk, I think I 
can get to sleep/ 

Then it occurred to her that if Mademoiselle was suffering from a 
sorrow like hers, she would not be able to sleep either. Perhaps she would 
like to have a visit from Angelique, even if it was the middle of the 
night. Nights are so long when you’re alone. 

Angelique woke up her people. She ordered the coach and set out 
through the dark streets for the Luxembourg Palace. 

She had guessed right. The Grande Mademoiselle was not sleeping. 


Since the King’s verdict she had taken to her bed, taking nothing but 
broth and flooding her pillow with tears. Her companions and a few 
loyal friends tried to comfort her in vain. 

‘He should be there/ she would scream, pointing to the empty place 
beside her in the bed that Lauzun was to have occupied. ‘He should 
be there ! Oh, I’m going to die, ladies, I’m going to die/ 

The sight of a similar despair was an easy pretext for Angelique to 
give vent to the tears she had kept back for two days now. She burst 
into sobs. 

Mademoiselle de Montpensier was moved to see her share her sorrow 
so, and clasped her to her bosom. 

They stayed together that way till morning, talking about Lauzun 
and the King’s cruelty, holding each other’s hand and weeping like 


When Angelique finished explaining to Colbert that Baktiari Bey did 
not want to meet the King because he had not been received with 
enough pageantry, the minister raised his arms to the heavens. 

‘And all I do is scold the King for his expensive tastes and his ex- 
travagance 1’ 

When he heard this, Louis XIV laughed heartily. 

‘You see, Colbert, old man, your lectures are sometimes unjustified. 
Spending money recklessly for Versailles is not such a bad investment 
as you seem to think. That way I make the palace so extraordinary that 
it arouses everyone’s curiosity and makes us the envy of even the most 
distant nations. I have longed to see those nations in its halls, each 
dressed in the fashion of their own country, comparing all these 
splendours to their own, as they prepare to meet the great prince whose 
reputation has allured them. If I may tell you my thoughts, we ought 
to be humble so far as we ourselves are concerned, but at the same time 
proud and jealous of the posidon we occupy/ 

The day on which the Persian embassy arrived at the golden gates of 
Versailles, thousands of potted plants from the greenhouses had been 
set out among the terraces so that the wintry lawns looked like summery 
meadows. The floor of the great hall was completely covered with rose 
petals and orange blossoms. 

Baktiari Bey’s progress led him past silver-gilt vessels and master- 
pieces of the goldsmith’s art displayed in his honour. He was taken 


on a tour of the entire palace, whose gold and crystal stood comparison 
with the pleasure domes of the Arabian Nights. The tour ended in 
the Baths, where a gigantic tub of purple marble designed for the King 
convinced the Persian that the French did not neglect their ablutions 
so much as he had been led to believe. The thousand-odd fountains in 
the park completely convinced him. 

It was a day of triumph for Angelique. Everywhere and always she 
took precedence, for Baktiari Bey, perhaps with intentional mischief, 
neglected die Queen and the other ladies and addressed all his remarks 
to her. 

The silk treaty was signed in a very friendly atmosphere. 

Exhausted from all the excitement of the reception, Angelique re- 
turned to Paris. But when she arrived at her hotel, a dirt-stained royal 
messenger was on the steps waiting for her. 

‘Thank heaven, Fve caught up with you, Madame! The King sent 
me after you/ 

He handed Angelique a note which commanded her to return to 
Versailles with all speed. 

‘Can't I wait till tomorrow?' 

‘The King himself said “with all speed”, and instructed me to escort 
you back, no matter what the hour.' 

‘The Saint-Honore gate will be closed.' 

‘I have a passport that will get it opened.' 

‘We'll be attacked by robbers.' 

‘I am armed,' the man said. 1 have two pistols in my saddle holsters, 
and my sword.' 

It was a command from the King, and there was nothing for her to do 
but obey it. Angelique wrapped her cloak about her and set out once 

When they arrived the palace rose out of the night like a blue monster 
against the pale pink and grey dawn sky. In the window of the King’s 
conference chamber a torch glistened like a pearl in the sea-depths of 
the marble courtyard, still flooded with darkness. Angelique shivered 
as she followed the messenger through the empty hallways and past 
Swiss Guards drowsing here and there at their posts. 

But there were many people with the King: Colbert; de Lionne, drawn 
and haggard from sleeplessness; the King's confessor, Bossuet, whose 
eloquence pleased the King to the extent that he frequendy asked 
his advice and wanted to add him to his Court; Louvois, his face as 
grim as if he had witnessed a catastrophe; the Chevalier de Lorraine, and 
a few extras whose faces reflected the atmosphere of controversy. They 


were all standing before His Majesty, and it looked as if they had been 
there in conference with him a good part of the night, for the candles 
were almost burnt out. 

When Angelique was announced, they all stopped talking. The King 
asked her to sit. After what seemed like an endless silence, during which 
the King kept examining the letter in front of him to conceal his 
expression, he finally spoke: 

‘Our Persian Ambassador has ended his visit in a strange way, 
Madame. Baktiari Bey has headed south, but he has sent me an urgent 
message concerning you and . . . Here, read it yourself/ 

The message which had doubtless been translated and painstakingly 
transcribed by the Armenian Agobian, thanked the King once more for 
his splendid entertainment and his kindness. Then there followed an 
exact enumeration acknowledging the gifts His Majesty, Louis XIV, 
the greatest monarch of the West, had sent the Shah of Persia via the 

1 silver-gilt service engraved with fleur-de-lis 

2 gold clocks which told the date and the season 

1 dozen pocket watches engraved with fleur-de-lis 

2 large Gobelins tapestries 

1 onyx die for a royal seal, engraved with the Persian emblem of 
a lion and a rising sun 

2 large portraits of the King and the Queen in their robes of state 
20 lengths of fine linen 

i charcoal brazier made of gold-plated iron, with two bellows 
worked with an iron string 

3 cases of silver cannonballs for warming the bath of the Shah of 

6 cases of gewgaws, called ‘Temple jewels", for the Shah to give 
his servants or toss to the people 

3 pots of geraniums to be replanted in Persian soil 

i saddle of Lyons leather with a silver halter 

But His Majesty had omitted from all these gifts the precious tur- 
quoise His Excellency expected as a reward for faithfully discharging 
his mission. There followed a description of the turquoise, so detailed 
that anyone could see a woman was meant and that the woman was 
none other than Angelique. 

Baktiari Bey thought the customs of the West would not permit him 
to leave before he had tested in turn the good will of the possessor of 


such a rare treasure. But now the treaties were signed to the satisfac- 
tion of all, and of the French King in particular, why was not the 
‘charming Marquise’, the ‘star of the Court of France’, the ‘most in- 
telligent woman in the world’, the lily of Versailles’, among the last gifts 
Monsieur de Lorraine and the Marquis de Tercy had brought him as he 
was leaving? He had thought discretion might have led her to wait 
until nightfall to join him with all her baggage and vehicles, and so 
he had started out. But at the first halting place he suspected he had 
been tricked. Were they treating him like a donkey with a carrot held 
before its nose to get him across a rickety bridge? Was the sovereign of 
the West two-faced? Was his trickery as great as his greed? Would he 
consider the treaty just another game? Go back on his word? . . . 

The long list of questions left no doubt about the mood that had 
motivated Baktiari Bey to write the letter, or of the likely possibility 
that he would discredit the French to his master and undo all the good 
that had been achieved. 

‘Well?’ said Angelique. 

‘Yes, well indeed,’ the King mimicked. ‘Will you be so good as to 
tell me what shameless conduct you dared indulge in at Suresnes for 
such a disgraceful proposal to be made us?’ 

‘My conduct, Sire, was that of a woman sent to a potentate to flatter 
him, not to say seduce him, so as to wheedle him into being favourably 
inclined to our points of view, and thus serve the King.’ 

‘Are you insinuating that I encouraged you to prostitute yourself to 
achieve results?’ 

‘Your Majesty’s intention was quite clear to me.’ 

‘How can you be so foolish? A woman of intelligence and character 
like you has twenty different ways of pacifying a prince, without acting 
like a whore . . . But you had to become the mistress of this hot- 
tempered barbarian, this infidel enemy of your Church. Did you? 
Answer me!’ 

Angelique bit her lip to hide a smile, and cast her eyes over the 
assemblage. ‘Sire, your question embarrasses me before all these gentle- 
men. Permit me to say that this is a subject for the ears of my con- 
fessor alone.’ 

The King half rose, his eyes flashing. Bossuet intervened, rising to 
his full Burgundian height and raising his Bishop’s hand authoritatively. 

‘Sire, allow me to remind you that only a priest has the right to know 
the secrets of a person’s soul.’ 

‘So has the King, Monsieur Bossuet, when the actions of his subjects 
involve his government. Baktiari Bey has provoked my displeasure by 


his effrontery, but it must be admitted that when a man, Persian or not, 
is led on . . / 

*He was not, Sire/ said Angelique firmly. 

*1 am glad to hear it/ said the King. He sat down with obvious 

Bossuet emphatically declared that whatever might have happened 
in the past, it was the present that was important. The question 
amounted to this: how to soothe the temper of Baktiari Bey without 
granting his demands? 

Everyone began to offer his own opinion. Tercy thought the 
Ambassador should be arrested and thrown into prison, and the Shah of 
Persia informed that his envoy had died in France of a quartan fever. 
Colbert almost grabbed him by the throat. Soldiers like him had no 
notion whatever of the importance of trade in the economy of a nation ! 
Like Tercy, Lionne thought there was no need of getting uneasy about 
those distant Mohammedans. But Bossuet and the Jesuit combined their 
eloquence to demonstrate that the future of the Church in the Orient 
depended on the success of the embassy. Finally Angelique suggested 
there was only one way to tell Baktiari Bey his request was refused with- 
out his taking it as a personal insult, and that was for the King to write 
he was extremely sorry he could not grant his dear and noble friend’s 
request, but Madame du Plessis was a sultana-bachi , and therefore the 
Ambassador would surely understand how impossible it was for his 
desires to be fulfilled. 

‘What does sultana-bachi mean?’ 

‘The favourite wife of the sultan, Sire, chosen by him above all others, 
to whom he entrusts the direction of his harem and whom he frequently 
asks to share his responsibilities as a ruler.’ 

‘If that is what the title means, don’t you think Baktiari Bey would 
be correct in calling my attention to the fact that in the West the 
Queen represents the sultana - what d’ye call it - bachiY 

‘Your Majesty’s objection is well taken, but you may rest easy. Often 
in the Orient a prince finds it obligatory, for dynastic reasons, to marry 
a princess of royal blood whom he himself has not chosen. This does 
not prevent him from raising another to the rank of favourite, and it 
is she who has the power/ 

‘Strange custom/ said the King. ‘But since you tell me there is no 
other way . . / 

All that was left was to compose the letter. Colbert wanted to do 
this himself. He read it aloud: 

‘. . . Ask me for any other woman of my kingdom, and she shall be 


yours/ he ended. ‘The youngest, the loveliest, the fairest -you have 
merely to choose/ 

‘Easy now, Monsieur Colbert/ said the King, ‘or you will get me in- 
volved in an unsavoury business/ 

‘Sire, Your Majesty should understand that you cannot flatly refuse 
him without offering him some compensation for what he has lost to 
bis great disappointment/ 

‘My word, I never thought of that. I’m sure you are right/ 
Everyone was glad to see the King come out of the conference with a 
happy expression on his face. For the greater part of the day the 
Court had been expecting a political explosion, at the very least a 
declaration of war. To satisfy their curiosity, the King told with great 
humour about the final demands of the Persian Ambassador. But he 
did not mention the name of Angelique, only said the Oriental prince 
had been so taken with the beauty of the French women that he wanted 
a real flesh and blood memento of them. 

. . More flesh than blood/ Brienne added, laughing at his own 

‘The difficulty was in choosing such a souvenir/ the King went on 
to say. ‘I thought I would entrust the selection to Monsieur de Lauzun, 
he is such an expert in such matters/ 

Peguilin waved his hands gracefully. ‘An easy assignment, Sire. Our 
Court is full of pleasing whores . . / He chucked Madame de Montespan 
under the chin. ‘Why wouldn’t this one do? She has already proved 
how well she can please a prince/ 

‘Fresh !’ fumed the Marquise, slapping his hand away. 

Then how about that one?’ Peguilin went on, pointing to the Princess 
of Monaco, who had been one of his own mistresses. ‘She seems likely 
to me. Perhaps this will prove to be the only chance she hasn’t taken. 
From a page-boy on up . . . even women/ 

The King interrupted him. ‘Watch your language, sir/ 

‘Why, Sire, when no one watches one’s conduct?’ 

‘It looks to me as if Peguilin were getting ready for another little 
visit to the Bastille/ Madame de Choisy whispered to Angelique. to 
he did make a good answer. What is all this scandal about the Persian 
Ambassador? It looks as if you were mixed up in it/ 

‘I’ll tell you bit by bit at Saint-Germain/ Angelique said, deliberately 
omitting to tell the Duchesse that she was returning straight to 

With a great din of cracking whips and grinding of axles and whinny- 
ing, the coaches got into line. For a few days Versailles’s gilded gates 


would be shut as well as its tall windows which now were reflecting a 
sunset as crimson as the evening before. 

As he passed, Lionne stuck his head out of the window of his coach. 
‘You can brag about making me the goat in this damfool business. 
The King has assigned me the task of finding the . . . compensation 
for the Persian Ambassador. What will my wife say? Well, I saw a 
little actress in Moliere’s company, intelligent and quite ambitious. I 
don't think it will be hard to persuade her.' 

‘All’s well that ends well/ said Angelique with a wan smile. 

She was having a terrible time keeping her eyes open, for she had 
been running to and fro for exactly twenty-four hours without stop- 
ping. The very thought of getting back into her coach and travelling 
over the road from Versailles to Paris again turned her stomach. 

Her coachman was waiting for her in the courtyard, his hat in his 
hand. With great dignity he informed Madame la Marquise that this 
was the last time he would have the honour of driving her. He had 
always done his job well, but God was not pleased with sheer stupidity, 
and he was getting old. He ended by saying that to his great regret he 
must leave the service of Madame la Marquise. 


The beggars were waiting in the back room of the kitchen. As she tied 
a white apron around her waist, Angelique reminded herself that she 
had too long neglected her duty as a noblewoman, such as giving alms 
with her own hands once a week. With her crazy zigzagging between 
Paris and the Court with its continual fetes, her visits to the H6tel du 
Beautreillis had become infrequent. Now she needed some opportunity 
to check her accounts. 

Roger ran the establishment well. Barbe was there to take care of 
Charles-Henri. The Abbe de Lesdiguieres and Malbrant were there for 
Florimond whom they followed to Court. But her own business affairs 
and those of the Plessis-Bellifere family were getting into a terrible mess. 

She went to visit David Chaillou, who kept a tight rein on the choco- 
late shops of the city and managed them very well. She also went to see 
the man responsible for her imports from the ‘isles’. 

When she returned she found the maids and the Gilandon girls pre- 
paring gifts for the poor, for this was the day for alms-giving at the 
H6tel du Beautreillis. It would last into the evening. Angelique her- 
self carried the baskets of round loaves, and Anne-Marie Gilandon fol- 


lowed her with a basket of bandages and medicines. The winter day 
shed its grey light on the faces of the poor, some sitting on benches or 
stools, others standing along the wall. They had already drunk a big 
bowl of soup. 

First she distributed the bread. To the mothers she recognised she 
added a little ham or a sausage which would last their families several 
days. There were some new faces. Possibly some of the oldtimers had 
got tired of coming since they had not seen her for so long. Even beggars 
have feelings. 

She got down on her knees to wash the feet of a woman with an 
ulcerated leg who was holding a fretful child on her lap. The woman’s 
face was hard and grim, and her lips were set in a manner Angelique 
seemed to recall. 

‘Did you want to ask me something?’ 

The woman hesitated. A dog many beatings have taught to cringe 
can sometimes look defiant. She held out the child stiffly. Angelique 
examined it. It had fresh sores at the base of its neck, two of which 
were suppurating. 

‘This must be taken care of.’ 

The woman shook her head emphatically. An old cripple named 
Stale Bread came to her assistance. 

‘She wants the King to touch it. You know the King. Tell her how to 
go about it.’ 

With her fingertip Angelique dreamily stroked the child’s forehead. 
It had a funny little nose and the eyes of a frightened squirrel. Have 
the King touch it? Why not? Since Clovis, the first Christian king of 
the Franks, this gift of healing scrofula had been handed down to his 
successors. God had transmitted to them this power with the holy 
chrism that the miraculous dove had brought from heaven in a glass 
phial on the day of the first coronation. The legend was that when 
Leonicet, a squire of Clovis, caught scrofula, Clovis saw in a vision an 
angel who told him to touch his servant’s neck. When he did so, he 
experienced the joy of healing his faithful servant Leonicet. Ever since 
then the Kings of France, as heirs of this remarkable gift, had been 
besieged by poor folk covered with sores. No sovereign had ever 
neglected this duty, Louis XIV less than some. Almost every Sunday, at 
Versailles or Saint-Germain, or every time he came to Paris, he received 
the sick. In one year he touched more than fifteen hundred, and was 
said to have worked many cures. 

Angelique said she thought one had to speak to the King’s doctor, as 
it was he and his assistants who examined the sick before they were 


presented to the King. A cart would take them to Versailles, where the 
ceremony was held most often. She advised the woman to come to see 
her the following week. In the meantime she would speak to Vallet, the 
King’s doctor, who was present at His Majesty’s evening meal every day. 

The beggars who had been listening to the conversation, implored her 
in turn. ‘Lady, we want to be touched by the King too. Lady, intercede 
for us.’ 

She promised them she would do her best. Meanwhile she dressed the 
chld’s sores with compresses of a green liquid that her own doctor had 

Old Stale Bread was a regular. For years he had been coming to the 
H6tel de Beautreillis for Angelique to dress his ulcers and wash his 
feet. He saw no use in it at all, but he let her do it because she in- 
sisted. Mumbling in his tangled grey beard about his pilgrimages, for 
he did not wish to be thought a vulgar beggar, he would tell her about 
all the trips he had made to holy shrines, and show her the cockle- 
shells in his hat and the rosaries he had brought back, and the bell at 
the end of his pilgrim’s staff. 

These trips had not taken him much out of the Ile-de-France, but he 
knew every one of the castles in it, even the smallest, in which as an 
experienced beggar he knew how to get a hand-out. Since the King did 
not like living in Paris, the great nobles were building everywhere, wish- 
ing to emulate their master in constructing lavish residences, laying 
out parks, cutting avenues through the forests, planting orange groves 
and installing hundreds of fountains. That was all to the good for Stale 
Bread. Limping, whining, begging, like Saint Roch with his starveling 
yellow dog always trailing along, he wandered up and down the roads 
and took advantage of the ceaseless traffic of wagons and carts bringing 
construction materials to get a lift. 

Stale Bread judged the great by their kitchens. It was a point of 
view as valid as any other, and Angelique liked to hear him run on. 

‘What story have you for me today, Stale Bread?’ 

‘This morning,’ the old cripple said, ‘I was coming back from Ver- 
sailles on foot. A little walking is good for anyone. Suddenly my dog 
started barking, and a robber came out of the woods. I needed just one 
look at him to say to myself, “That’s a bandit.” But do you think I was 
scared? Not a bitl He came up to me and he said: ‘You’ve got bread to 
eat. Give me a piece and I’ll give you some gold.” “Show it to me first,” 
I said. He took out two gold pieces. I gave him all my bread for it. 
Then he asked me the way to Paris. “It just happens I’m going there 
too.” A wine-seller was going by with empty barrels in his cart, and he 


was glad to take us both along. We got to talking on the ride, and I told 
him I knew everyone in Paris, especially the nobility and all the great 
establishments. "I would like to go to Madame du Plessis-Belliere’s,” he 
said. “It just happens I’m going there, too.” “She is my only friend,” he 

Angelique stopped in the middle of her bandaging. ‘You’re making 
this up, Stale Bread. I don’t have any friends among the robbers of the 

Tm just telling you what he said. If you don’t believe me, ask him. 
He’s here/ 


‘Over there in the comer. He’s a little scared, I guess. He doesn’t seem 
to want anyone to look him square in the face/ 

The person he pointed out did indeed seem to be hiding. He was 
leaning his face against a post. Angelique had not noticed him when 
she was handing out bread. His lean body was wrapped in a tattered 
cloak, the edge of which he had drawn over the lower part of his face. 
His appearance did not inspire her with confidence. She got up and went 
straight over to him. Then she suddenly recognised him in a burst of 
fear and joy. It was Rakoczy. 

‘You!’ she exclaimed. 

She seized him by the shoulders and felt the thinness of his body 
through the cloak. ‘Where did you come from?’ 

‘That old fellow told you, from the woods.’ 

His dark eyes were sunken, but they still burned with their old fire, 
and his lips were pale against the tangle of his beard. She realised that 
more than a month had gone by since the Russian delegation had 
visited Versailles. Heavens, it was not possible! In the dead of winter 1 

‘Don’t stir!’ she said. ‘I am going to take care of you/ 

As soon as the visit of the poor came to an end, she took the Hun- 
garian prince into a comfortable room next to the Florentine bath. 
Rakoczy tried to make a joke of it all. He straightened up, draping his 
rags about him with a devil-may-care attitude, and inquired after her 
health as if he had just met her in the King’s antechamber. But as 
soon as he had bathed and shaved, he sank on to the bed and fell into a 
deep sleep. 

Angelique summoned her steward. ‘Roger,’ she said, ‘the man I have 
just been with is our guest. I can’t tell you his name, but understand 
that we owe him a secure place of refuge/ 


‘Madame may count on my secrecy/ 

‘Yours, yes, but the staff is large. Roger I want you to make all my 
people understand - from the little stable-boy Jeannot up to your book- 
keeper - that they are to make no more of this man than if he were 
invisible. They have never seen him. He does not exist V 

‘I understand, Madame/ 

‘You are also to tell them that if he goes out of here safe and sound, I 
will give them all a reward. But if anything happens to him under my 
roof . . / Angelique clenched her fists and her eyes were flashing. 

. I swear I will dismiss you all. Everyone, from the lowest to the 
highest, do you understand? Is that clear?’ 

Roger bowed. His long service with Madame du Plessis had taught 
him that she always meant what she said. His own opinion was that a 
good servant who knew his place should be blind, deaf, and, if possible, 
dumb, and he tried to inculcate the servants he was responsible for with 
the same ideal. He said he would pledge their silence and that none of 
them would let the glory of idle gossip outweigh the advantages of 
serving Madame. 

She felt reassured on this point. But to shelter Rakoczy was some- 
thing else again. To help him escape and get across the frontier was 
still another. She did not know what orders Louis XIV might have 
issued concerning the revolutionary. She sketched several plans, 
estimating the money and the friends she could rely on to make this 
difficult undertaking turn out well. She was still deep in her plans when 
the little clock in her room chimed the hour of eleven. 

As she rose to prepare for bed she almost screamed. Rakoczy was 
standing in the door to her room. Angelique recovered herself. 

‘How do you feel?’ 


The Hungarian stretched his long thin body which hardly filled 
the clothes that plump Roger had loaned him. ‘I feel better for 
just getting rid of my beard. I kept thinking I was turning into a 

‘Shh,’ she said, laughing. ‘People don’t talk about ropes in the house 
of a man who’s been hanged.’ 

Suddenly she shivered, remembering how once she had tried to rescue 
the Gutter Poet. She had not succeeded; the King’s police had been 
stronger than she. The Gutter Poet had been hanged in the Place de 
Grfcve. But now she had other means at her disposal. She was rich and 
influential. She would succeed this time. 

‘Are you still hungry?’ 


Til always be hungry/ he sighed, patting his hollow stomach. 1 think 
111 be hungry right up till my last gasp/ 

She took him into the next room where she had had a table set with 
him in mind. Gold candlesticks were lit at either end. On a golden platter 
lay a huge roast turkey stuffed with chestnuts and garnished with baked 
apples. Beside it were covered dishes of hot and cold vegetables, an eel 
stew, salads, and a golden bowl full of fruit. To honour the poor fellow 
after his sojourn in the forest, Angelique had had the table laid with 
some of her gold service, of which she was very proud. Besides the 
platter, the candlesticks and the bowl, she had set out two priceless 
antique goblets and ewers. 

Rakoczy uttered a wild cry of delight, meant more for the golden 
skin of the turkey than for the goblets and plates. He dashed to the table 
and began to wolf down the food. It was not till he had torn off and 
devoured the two wings and a drumstick that he motioned Angelque 
peremptorily to sit down opposite him. 

‘You eat, too/ he said with his mouth full. 

She laughed at him sympathetically, and filled his goblet with bur- 
gundy. Then she poured herself some and sat down as he had directed. 
There was no question of her getting even a morsel of turkey; the signs 
pointed to Rakoczy’s eating it all. His sharp white teeth sank into the 
tender meat with obvious pleasure, and cracked the bones easily. 
Rakoczy wiped his hands, took a drink, uncovered the dishes and heaped 
his plate, gobbled that up, and after another goblet of wine, returned 
to tie carcase of the turkey. His sparkling black eyes rose towards 

‘You are beautiful/ he said between mouthfuls. ‘All the time I was 
roaming the forest I could see you in front of me - a vision of light and 
comfort . . . the most beautiful woman . . . the tenderest . . / 

‘Were you hiding in the forest all this time?’ 

The Prince began to feel full. He licked his fingers and stroked his 
long moustache which he arranged to droop over the comers of his 
mouth. It might have been due to the candlelight, but his skin seemed 
to have yellowed, making him seem more of an Asiatic than ever, what 
with his slanting eyes. But their dancing, mocking glints robbed diem 
of Oriental mystery. He tossed back his long glossy black hair, curled 
like a gypsy's. 

‘Yes. Where else could I go? The forest was the only refuge open to 
me around Versailles. I had the luck to find a marsh which led to a 
pond where I splashed around for a long time, and that made the 
hounds on my trail lose my scent. I could hear them baying and the 


shouts of the lackeys. . . . To be a quarry is not very pleasant. But I had 
Hospadar, my pony. He didn't want to get out of the water, even 
though icicles were forming on his mane, for he knew we would be 
lost if we did. Toward evening we could tell that our followers had given 
up and gone home.' 

Angelique filled his glass. ‘But how did you exist? Where did you 
take shelter?' 

T happened on an abandoned woodcutter's hut. I lit a fire. After stay- 
ing there a couple of days I started wandering again. Just as we were 
about to collapse I glimpsed a little hamlet in a clearing. That night I 
crept into it and stole a lamb that kept me in food for quite a while. 
Hospadar ate moss and berries. He is a horse from the tundras. At night 
I would go into the hamlet and steal more food, and in the daytime I 
burrowed under a lean-to I built with the knife I always carry under 
my clothes. The people in the hamlet weren't disturbed by the smoke 
they sometimes saw, and they blamed the wolves for the stolen animals. 
The wolves? Some came prowling around our shelter, but I drove them 
off with flaming brands. One day I decided to go farther southward and 
try to get out of the forest into some region where no one had heard of 
us. But . . . how can I explain it . . . the forest is a harsh reality for a 
man from the steppes. There was no wind, no odour to guide me, only 
the snow and the fog that shrouded every dawn and every twilight. 
The forest is a closed world, like a dream palace. . . . One day I came 
to a hill from which I could see the forest stretching all around me like 
the sea. Nothing but trees or the vast empty spaces where the swamps 
were. ... It was like a desert . . . and in the centre was an island all 
white and red . . . made by the hand of man. I saw I had come back to 
where I started from. It was Versailles I' 

He stopped and his head drooped. For the first time he seemed crushed 
by his failure. 

‘We stayed for a while looking at it while the wind whipped at us. 
Then I knew that I could never escape the man who had built all 
that - Versailles. A lawn of many colours stretched from the base of 
the palace and I could see flowers of red. and purple and blue and 
yellow on the outskirts of the wintry woods.' 

‘They were flowers,' said Angelique. ‘It was the reception for the 
Persian Ambassador.' 

‘I thought it must be a mirage brought on by hunger. I was beaten, 
utterly discouraged, for I saw then what I had long suspected, that your 
king is the greatest in the world.' 

Tut you dared defy him right to his face. What a mad thing to do I 


What an insult! Your dagger at the very feet of the King, before the 
whole Court of Versailles !’ 

Rakoczy leaned across the table with a smile. ‘An insult for an insult. 
Didn’t you like my gesture just a little?’ 

‘Perhaps. But see where it led you. Your cause itself will suffer.’ 

‘That is true. Alas, our Oriental ancestors bequeathed us their drive 
but none of their prudence. When it is easier to die than to submit, then 
is the time for bold gestures and great deeds. I have not finished my 
combat in the arena against the tyranny of kings. Then I suddenly 
thought of you.’ He shook his head tenderly. ‘Only a woman can be 
trusted. Men have often surrendered those who have asked their protec- 
tion. Women, never. I got the idea of coming to you, and so here I am. 
I would like to take refuge in Holland, which is also a republic that paid 
dearly for its freedom. It welcomes political refugees.’ 

‘What did you do with Hospadar?’ 

‘I could not come out of the forest with him. He would betray me. 
Everyone used to point at the little Hun horse. I couldn’t leave him in 
the forest to the wolves. ... I cut his throat with my knife.’ 

‘No!’ Angelique exclaimed, her eyes filling with tears. 

Rakoczy drained the golden goblet in front of him, set it down, and 
stepped slowly over to her. Half-sitting on the table he leaned down and 
looked at her closely. 

‘In my homeland,’ he said solemnly, ‘I have seen soldiers toss children 
into the flames right before their mothers’ eyes. I have seen them 
strung up on tree branches by their feet, while their mothers stood 
below watching their agony and hearing their screams for the rest of 
their lives. That was in the repression under the King of Hungary 
assisted by the Emperor of Germany. That’s why I seized a torch and 
lit fires of my own. What is the death of a faithful horse in comparison 
with that? Don’t waste your sympathy. I told you I had no more 
than my horse and my dagger. That is no longer true. Now I have 

Angelique shook her head. She could not speak. Jumping up, she went 
to her writing-desk, took out the casket containing his dagger studded 
with turquoises and gave it to him. His face lit up. 

‘So it fell into your hands 1 Ah, God was good to send you to me as a 
gui din g star in this land. Here is a token of triumph. Why are you 
weeping, my beautiful angel?’ 

‘I don’t know. It all seems so cruel and inevitable.’ 

Through her tears his face seemed like that of a sacrificial victim. Then 
she saw his hand close around the dagger. He had found a weapon he 


had learned to use, and that he would use again. He slipped it into 
his belt. 

‘Nothing is inevitable in this world/ he said, ‘except the struggle of 
a man to live in peace with his soul/ 

He stretched himself, spreading his legs and extending his arms with 
deep satisfaction. After his incredible physical hardships he needed 
only a few hours’ rest to recover the strength and agility of a wild 
beast waiting to spring. 

She thought he reminded her of someone, less in his face than in his 
lanky figure which seemed to have steel springs. 

‘For the moment my soul is in retreat/ Rakoczy said, grinning like 
a wolf. ‘I am aware only of the needs of my body/ 

'Are you still hungry?’ 

‘Yes ... for you/ 

He made his bright, penetrating eyes sink into hers. 

‘So you have demonstrated/ she said smiling. 

‘My words are as real as my deeds. The love I bear you is rooted deep 
within me - in my arms, my legs, my whole body. If I touched you I 
would warm you/ 

‘Rut I am not cold/ 

‘Yes, you are. Very cold. I can sense how lonely and cold your heart 
is, and I could hear your sobs from far away. Come to me.’ 

He embraced her without violence but with a strength that left her 
weak. His lips roved from her throat to the tender spot behind her ear. 
It was impossible for her to resist him. Their hair entwined. She felt his 
moustache tickling her bosom as he kissed her breasts, bending over 
them as if he were sucking a cool draught from a woodland spring. An 
almost painful feeling surged through her, constricting her throat and 
making her hands tremble. Each passing moment welded her tighter to 
his hard frame. When he let her go, she staggered dizzily, as if she had 
no gravity. His eyes spoke his demand. 

Angelique left the room and went to her own chamber. She began to 
rip off her clothes, tearing frenziedly at her stiff stays, letting her heavy 
skirts fall around her feet. She felt her body quivering warmly under her 
lace chemise. Kneeling on her bed, she undid her hair. A bright, 
primitive passion flooded her, undimmed by any consideration. He had 
lost everything. She would not mince matters with him. She let her hair 
stream down her bare back, relishing its delicious touch, ran her fingers 
through it, spread it out as her head tilted back and her eyes closed. 

From the doorway Rakoczy was watching her. 

The amber light of an oil vigil lamp in the niche at the head of her 


bed lit on the curves of her well-fleshed thighs. He could see them 
quivering. It revived the glints of her lovely auburn hair that fell like a 
cloak of water over her sleek shoulders and on to her upturned breasts. 
Her necklace of pearls was still about her neck. 

She watched him come towards her with half-closed eyes. Suddenly 
she knew who it was he reminded her of - her first husband, the Comte 
de Peyrac who had been burned alive in the Place de Greve. He was just 
a litde shorter and did not limp. 

She stretched forth her arms to him, calling him to her with a sigh. 
He leaped forward and took her once more into his arms. Resistless, 
yielding, she surrendered completely to his soft caresses. Exquisite, un- 
trammelled pleasure swept over her. 

‘How good a man is 1* she thought. 

For three nights she slept snuggled close to his long male body. The 
bed was warm, the curtains pulled close. She would revel in the newly 
rediscovered delight of having someone beside her and cling to him until 
sleep overcame her. Then when her sleep grew lighter, towards morn- 
ing she would grope for his hand and stroke his soft hair. If he were no 
longer there, she quailed at the thought of being once more alone. She 
never asked herself why she loved him. What did it matter? 

He would be wide awake at once, like a man used to being on the 
alert. Then his face would startle her for a moment, as if she were a 
woman of a conquered town awaking in the invader’s bed. But he 
would put his arms around her and she would yield her nakedness to 
him as he caressed her tightening breasts. He had been surprised that 
anyone so beautiful and reserved as she could live alone so long. Now 
he discovered that she could fondle him passionately, that her capacity 
for love was inexhaustible, that she begged for love and accepted it with 
a sort of fascinating shyness. 

T am always learning something new about you/ he murmured into 
her ear. T thought you were too strong, too cold, too intelligent to be so 
physical. But you have everything. Come with me, be my wife/ 

T have two children/ 

‘We will take them with us. We will make them into horsemen of 
the steppes, true heroes/ 

Angelique tried to imagine her cherubic Charles-Henri as a martyr to 
the cause of Hungary. She laughed, tossing her hair carelessly over her 
silky shoulders. Rakoczy clasped her to him voraciously. 

‘How beautiful you are! I cannot live without you. When I am away 


from you my strength drains from me as from a wound. You cannot 
leave me now/ 

He sprang up. ‘Who is there?’ 

He ripped back the curtains of the bed. At the far end of the room 
a door was opening, revealing Peguilin de Lauzun on the threshold. 
Behind him billowed the great white plumes of the King’s musketeers. 

The Marquis advanced. He saluted Rakoczy with his sword. 

‘Prince,’ he said with all courtesy, ‘in the name of the King, I arrest 

After a moment of silence, the Hungarian got out of bed without 
emabrrassment and bowed to him. 

‘My cloak is on the back of that chair,’ he said calmly. ‘Will you be 
so good as to hand it to me? As soon as I am dressed, I will go with you, 

Angelique wondered whether she could be dreaming. This was the 
very thing that had haunted her dreams for three nights. She was so 
astounded she never thought of the shameless disarray she presented. 

Lauzun ogled her facetiously, and blew her a kiss. Then, resuming 
his formality, he said: ‘Madame, in the name of the King I arrest you/ 

There was a knock on the door of her cell and someone tiptoed in. 
Ang61ique was frowning over her worm-eaten embroidery frame and 
did not look up; it would be just another of the nuns bringing her some 
weak broth in that humble way they had of keeping their eyes lowered 
and their gestures servile. She rubbed her hands together to get the 
stiffness out of them caused by the dampness of the room, took up her 
embroidery needle again, and concentrated on her work. 

A burst of laughter close to her ear made her jump. The young nun 
who had just come in was indulging herself to her heart’s content. 

‘Marie-Agnfcs!’ Angelique exclaimed. 

‘Oh, my poor Angelique. If you only knew how funny you look as a 
prisoner condemned to do embroidery!’ 

1 like embroidering . . . but in other surroundings, naturally. How 
do you happen to be here, Marie-Agnes? Who let you in?’ 

‘I did not have to be let in. I live here. You are in my very own 

‘Is this the Carmelites of Mont Sainte-Genevieve?’ 

‘It is indeed. Bless the luck that brought us together. I didn’t know 
until this morning the name of the great lady we had been ordered to 
be jailers for, and then the Mother Superior immediately gave me per- 


mission to visit you. Of course, I’ll do anything I can to help you.’ 

‘I don’t know what you can do for me, I’m sorry to say,’ Ang61ique 
said ruefully. ‘The three days I’ve been here I’ve noticed that the strictest 
kind of orders must have been given about me. The nuns who bring 
me food are as deaf and dumb as the little half-wit who sweeps up the 
room. I asked to see the Mother Superior, and I am still waiting for her 
to come/ 

It’s not easy for us to comply with His Majesty’s explicit orders when 
he sends us a mangy sheep we want to keep from the rest of the flock/ 

Thank you for the compliment/ 

It's the way we describe you among ourselves. We are sheep without 
a blemish/ Her green eyes, so like her sister’s, sparkled in her pale face 
which was thin and drawn from fasting. ‘You are here to do penance for 
your many great sins against morality/ 

‘Sheer hypocrisy ! If I’m here for being immoral, then it’s high time 
all the ladies of the Court were put under lock and key/ 

‘But you were denounced by the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament/ 

Angelique stared at her sister. 

‘Don’t you know/ Marie-Agnes continued, ‘that good Brotherhood 
wants to abolish licentiousness everywhere. They give the King informa- 
tion about the private life of his subjects. They have spies everywhere, 
and hardly let people - how shall I say it? - sleep in peace/ 

‘Are you trying to tell me I have servants in my house paid by the 
Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament to inform them about my private 

‘That’s right. You are no better off in that respect than all the other 
people in the Court and in the city, too.’ 

Brooding, Angelique took a few stitches with the red wool she was 

‘So that’s how the King knew I was hiding Rakoczy. Marie-Agnes, can 
you tell me who took it upon himself to betray me to the King?’ 

‘Possibly I can. We have all sorts of noble names among our sisters and 
they know loads of secrets/ 

She came back the following day with a smug smile pregnant with 
promises of information. 

‘Well, I found out. In all likelihood you have Madame de Choisy to 
thank for snatching you out of the clutches of the devil/ 

‘Madame de Choisy!’ 

‘That’s the one. For a long time she has been worried about the state 
of your soul. Search your memory. Who was so eager to recommend a 
companion or a lackey to you?’ 


‘Good Lord!’ Angelique groaned. ‘Not one, but half a dozen. The 
whole household of my children is made up of Madame de Choisy’s 

Marie-Agn&s laughed till she was out of breath. ‘How naive you are, 
my poor Angelique ! I always thought you were much too pure in heart 
to be at Court/ 

‘How was I to know anyone was so interested in saving my soul?’ 

‘They are interested in everything. That’s the test of human devotion. 
God needs uncompromising soldiers, and that’s the secret of the 
Brotherhood. They’ll stop at nothing to save a soul. The purity of their 
motives justifies what to less complicated minds would appear down- 
right treachery.’ 

‘Don’t tell me you’re on their side,’ Angelique flared, ‘or I shall never 
speak to you again so long as I live.’ 

The nun smiled smugly again, then lowered her eyes and grew serious. 
‘God alone can judge,’ she said. 

She promised again that she would do everything she could to keep 
her sister informed of what fate awaited her. It was not impossible for 
her to intervene on her behalf. Everything was in the hands of the 
Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament, but the Mother Superior of the 
Carmelites had considerable influence over certain members of that com- 
mittee of pious laymen. 

‘Don’t forget there’s a bit of politics involved in this,’ Angelique re- 
minded her. ‘Rakoczy was a foreign revolutionary and . . .’ 

‘That doesn’t make a bit of difference. In the eyes of those fanatics a 
lover is a lover. Whoever he is doesn’t matter . . . unless he is the 
King, of course. Perhaps he is the one who will rescue you in the 

As she went out, her black veil floated behind her provocatively. Days 
passed. Then Angelique had an unexpected visit from Solignac. He re- 
vived painful memories, but since from the very first he spoke of the 
King’s clemency so far as she was concerned, and gave her some hope of 
being set at liberty, she listened to him with patience. He talked for a 
long time. She had to undergo a regular sermon on the temptations of 
the flesh which seemed to her quite out of proportion to the three un- 
lucky nights she had spent in Rakoczy’s arms. What had happened to 
him? She hadn’t let herself think much about his fate in order not to 
lose courage herself. 

‘Do you come to me in the name of the King?’ she asked when he had 
finally ended his discourse. 

Of course, Madame. His Majesty’s decision alone could make me 


take such a step. In our opinion you need a longer time to meditate 
on . . / 

'And what does His Majesty intend to do about me?’ 

'You are at liberty/ Solignac said, pursing his lips. That is -and let 
us understand each other - you are free to leave this convent and go 
back to your Hotel de Beautreillis. But under no circumstances may you 
return to Court without having been previously invited/ 

'Have I lost all my posts?’ 

'That’s another matter. I scarcely need, add that the life you lead 
while awaiting such an invitation must be exemplary. You must conduct 
yourself in a manner beyond criticism.’ 

'By whom?’ said Angelique. 

Solignac did not deign to answer her. He arose patronisingly. Ange- 
lique threaded a needle and resumed her embroidery. 

'Well, Madame/ Solignac said in surprise, ‘didn’t you hear what I 
just told you?’ 

'What was that, sir?’ 

'That you are free.’ 

'Thank you, sir.’ 

‘I am prepared to escort you to the door of your home.’ 

'Thank you very much, sir. But what need is there for me to hurry? I 
am not unhappy here, and I shall enter into my freedom when I wish and 
as I wish. Please thank His Majesty for me. I am most grateful to you. 
Bless you!’ 

Quite out of countenance by her suave protestations, Solignac bowed 
and took his leave. 

Angelique took with her only those things she could carry. She could 
send for the rest the next day. She had not been able to bring much 
with her when she was arrested. She wanted to return on foot to con- 
vince herself that she was actually free again. Fortunately, the bad joke 
had not lasted long, but she didn’t want to have it repeated too often. 
To live in the shadow of committing a false move that might mean 
spending the rest of her days behind bars did not appeal to her. 

'Why is the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament so relentless toward 
me?’ she asked Marie- Agnes, whom she summoned to say good-bye to 
her. 'Haven’t they enough to do with greater sinners than I? Now that 
you have opened my eyes, I can see I have been spied on continually and 
all kinds of traps have been set for me. It was Madame de Choisy who 
told me the King had ordered me out of the palace at Fontainebleau. I 
found out later he had never given such an order, and I had almost 
committed a fatal mistake in leaving. What I don’t see is how they can be 



Versailles was bathed in light. The warmth and springtime glow of an 
April day wrapped the palace in that rosy-golden vapour that belongs 
only to lands which know the joy of dolce far niente. 

'How lovely Versailles is!’ Angelique said to herself in a rapture of 

Her spirits had revived; her anguish of soul was gone. At Versailles 
one had to believe in the mercy of God and in that of the King who 
had built this marvel. But one thing was sure, Solignac had not been 
wrong in telling Angelique she was banished from the Court until re- 
invited. She had succeeded, however, in getting a message through to 
Bontemps, and when he joined her near the pool of Clagny he con- 
firmed the shocking ban. 

Tor some days His Majesty could not even bear to hear your name, 
and we had to be careful not to mention you in front of him. You greatly 
offended him, Madame. I think you know how/ 

Tm pining away, Bontemps. Can't I see the King?' 

‘You must be out of your mind, Madame. I just told you he can't 
stand the merest mention of you/ 

‘But if he would see me, Bontemps, if you were to help me see him, 
don't you know what it would mean for you . . . haven’t you just an 

The Chief Valet of the Bedchamber rubbed the end of his nose as he 
thought it over. He knew his master’s nature better than the King’s 
confessor did, and he also knew how far he could go without displeasing 

‘Of course, Madame, I will do my best to persuade His Majesty to meet 
you in secret. If you get him to forgive you, he will forgive me/ 

He advised her to wait in the Grotto of Thetis, which was deserted 
diat day because all the Court was on the bank of the Grand Canal 
where a fleet of miniature galleys was being launched. 

‘The boats will drift down toward Trianon, and the King can leave 
without attracting attention. Furthermore, he can get to the Grotto of 
Thetis without passing the palace. But I can’t say when this will be. 
You’ll have to be patient, Madame/ 

‘I will be. The Grotto is a delightful place to wait, and at least I 
won’t suffer from the heat there. Monsieur Bontemps, I shall never 
forget what you have done for me today/ 


The valet bowed. He understood her meaning and hoped he could 
play a winning card. He had never been able to endure Madame de 

The Grotto of Thetis, one of the most unusual sights of Versailles, had 
been hewn in a granite cliff to the north of the palace. Angelique entered 
by one of its three gates. The sun's rays gilded the bas-relief of Apollo 
plunging into the sea in his chariot, symbolising the sun going to rest in 
the realm of Thetis at the end of the day. The interior was like a dream- 
palace. The pillars were of rough-hewn stone, and in niches faced with 
mother-of-pearl tritons blew their conch-shell horns, while shell-framed 
mirrors that created enormous perspectives reflected them to infinity. 

Angelique sat on the edge of a large scallop-shell of jasper. Around 
her, graceful sea-nymphs held dripping candelabra aloft, whose six 
branches imitating seaweed spouted jets of iridescent water. Hundreds 
of birds fluttered among the rosy mists of the vaulted roof, giving the 
grotto the sound of a grove. At first these seemed to be real, as did their 
songs, but a closer look revealed that their wings were of silver and 
their bodies of mother-of-pearl so that they resembled the birds of an 
underwater paradise. They were Francinet’s latest invention. A water 
organ was so placed that its tones echoed throughout the grotto from 
one side to the other. 

Angelique beguiled the time by listening to the music and picking 
out the innumerable details of the beauty that surrounded her. Here 
art and mechanical skill had reached a peak of perfection, and it was 
easy to see why the King liked this unusually tasteful spot. On fine days 
he loved to bring the ladies of the Court here to listen to chamber music. 
The previous year he had brought the Prince of Tuscany there for a 
repast of fruits and jams. 

Angelique let her fingers trail in the crystal-clear water. She didn't 
want to think. It was useless and perhaps unlucky to prepare a speech 
in advance only to find it wanting when the time came to use it. She 
would trust to the spur of the moment. But as the hours dragged by, 
she became more and more anxious. 

It was the King she was to meet. The awe he could inspire in her 
buffeted her like gusts of an icy wind, chilling her to the marrow. Some- 
times when she looked at him, so calm and solemn and yet so friendly, 
she could be terrified by the majesty she perceived behind the mask of an 
ordinary mortal. This sensation returned to her now as a kind of para- 
lysing fear, and if he had spoken to her at that moment, she would have 
stammered a reply like everyone else struck dumb by the royal presence. 
She remembered seeing on a battlefield in Flanders a rough non- 


commissioned officer covered with scars and medals turn pale at sud- 
denly finding himself in the presence of Louis XIV and his suite, and 
quite incapable of uttering anything but incoherent grunts to the 
questions the King so gently asked him. 

If I panic, I’ll be lost/ she said to herself. ‘I must not be afraid. Fear 
means defeat. Still the King holds my fate in his hands/ 

She shuddered, thinking that she heard a step behind her on the 
mosaic floor. But no one was there. She looked towards the main entrance 
that opened on the sinking sun, tinting the afternoon with pink. Above 
the lintel was the emblem of the King on a background of flaxen- 
coloured shells. The monogram was made of tiny pearl-like shells. The 
crown above it was decorated with mother-of-pearl fleur-de-lis outlined 
in amber which shone like gold in the half-light. 

Angelique could not take her eyes off that emblem. She felt a 
presence near her, but she hesitated to turn around. When at last she 
did so, she rose as she saw the King, then remained hypnotised to the 
point that she forgot to curtsy. 

The King had entered by one of the hidden doors of the grotto which 
opened on the north terraces and was used by servants when there was 
a reception there. He was clad in a suit of purple taffeta, modestly 
embroidered, and set off by exquisite lace at his throat and his wrists. 
His expression did not bode well. 

‘Well, Madame/ he said, ‘aren’t you afraid of my anger? Didn’t you 
understand what I told Monsieur de Solignac to convey to you? Do 
you want a scandal? Must I remind you before witnesses that your 
presence at Court is not required? Do you know that I have lost all 
patience? Well, answer me!’ 

The questions were like a hail of bullets. 

‘I wanted to see you, Sire/ Angelique answered. 

What man beholding her before him in the golden shadows of the 
Grotto of Thetis with such a disturbingly mysterious look in her 
emerald eyes could resist her charms? The King was not one to remain 
long insensible to them. He saw that her feelings were not feigned, 
that she was trembling all over. His mask of severity suddenly crumbled. 

‘Why ... oh, why did you do that?’ he exclaimed almost sadly. 
‘Such an unworthy betrayal . . / 

‘Sire, an outlaw sought refuge with me. Let women act according to 
the dictates of their heart and not according to the soulless principles 
of politics. Whatever his crime was, he was a poor wretch who was dying 
of hunger/ 

‘It is indeed a matter of politics. What do I care how much you 


sheltered him and fed and helped him escape 1? But you made him 
your lover as well. You acted like a prostitute/ 

Those are harsh words, Sire. I remember Your Majesty was once more 
forgiving when Monsieur de Lauzun at Fontainebleau was the cause 
of a painful incident between my husband and him, and I was then 
more to blame than now/ 

'We have come a long way since then/ said the King. ‘I don’t want 
... I don’t want you to give to others what you will not give me/ 

He began to pace up and down, touching the pearly birds and the 
puffy-cheeked tritons. With the simple words of a jealous man he was 
confessing his bitterness, his disappointment, his defeat, and in spite of 
his reputation for concealing his thoughts, was about to reveal his 

'I wanted to be patient. I wanted to prick the bubble of your vanity 
and your ambition. I hoped you would learn to know me better and that 
your heart would eventually be stirred . . . somehow. I looked for ways 
to make you mine, and when I saw that haste displeased you I was con- 
tent to let them go by. Now it has been years, yes, years since I first 
conceived a passion for you, since the day I first saw you as the Goddess 
of Spring. But you maintained your inverted snobbery, your disregard 
for conventional behaviour . . . You came here, you presented yourself 
before your King without being invited . . . Ah, how beautiful and 
bold you were I I knew you were going to be mine and that I would 
desire you to the point of madness, and to conquer you seemed so easy. 
But the tricks you used to rebuff me - 1 don’t know what they were. 1 
saw myself routed on all sides. Your kisses were neither promises nor 
confessions. Your confidences, your smiles, your serious words were no 
more than traps into which I was the only one to fall. I have suffered 
cruelly from not being able to take you in my arms, from not daring to 
do so lest you would escape me farther. . . . What good has all my 
patience, all my care, done? Now look at how you despise me still by 
giving yourself to an abominable savage from the Carpathians. How 
could I forgive you for that? . . . Why are you shaking so? Are you 

'No. Afraid/ 

'Of me?’ 

'Of your power, Sire/ 

'I am sorry/ He put his hands gently on her waist. 'Do not be afraid. 
You are the only person whose fear of me hurts me. I should like you to 
find joy in me, happiness, pleasure. What would I not give to see you 
smile? I have searched in vain for something that might satisfy you 

Don’t tremble, my love, I shall not hurt you. I cannot. This month gone 
by has been a hell for me. Everywhere I sought your eyes. And I could 
not stop thinking of you in the arms of that Rakoczy. Oh, how I have 
wanted to kill him I* 

‘What have you done with him, Sire?’ 

‘So it’s his fate that worries you, is it?’ he grinned. ‘So it’s for his 
sake you have the courage to present yourself before me? Well, relax. 
Your Rakoczy is not even in prison. See how unfairly you judge me. I 
have loaded him with favours. I have granted him everything he has 
wanted to get from me for a long time. He has gone back to Hungary 
with his pockets full of gold to sow disorder there between the German 
Emperor and the King of Hungary and the Ukrainians. That suits my 
plans, for I have no need whatever for a coalition in Central Europe 
just now. Everything has turned out for the best/ 

Of all he had been saying Angelique caught just one sentence: ‘He 
has gone back to Hungary/ She was shocked. She could not tell whether 
her attachment to Rakoczy was very deep, but never for a moment had 
she dreamed that she might not see him again. Now he had returned to 
that distant land so wild and far away it seemed to be on another planet. 
The King had abruptly swept him clean out of her life, and she would 
never see him again. 

She wanted to scream with rage. She wanted to see Rakoczy again. 
He was her lover, clean and sincere and ardent. She needed him. No 
one had the right to direct the lives of others this way as if they were 
marionettes. Her anger made her see red. 

‘At least you gave him plenty of money/ she cried, ‘so that he can 
fight kings and chase them out, and deliver his people from the tyrants 
that oppress them and play with their lives as if they were puppets, so 
that he can give them the freedom to think, to breathe, to love . . / 
‘Shut up!’ The King grasped her shoulders in a vice-like grip. ‘Shut 
up!’ Then his voice grew calm. ‘I entreat you not you to insult me, my 
love. I could not forgive you for that. Don’t show me your hatred. You 
cut me to the quick. You don’t have to say things that will only drive 
us apart. We ought to come closer to each other, Angelique. So be still. 

He led her to the edge of a marble pool where the water glimmered 
like a pearl. She was panting. Her teeth were clamped, her throat tight. 
The King’s strength subdued her. He was stroking her forehead, as 
she loved him to do, and mastering her. 

‘I beg you, don’t give way to nerves. Madame du Plessis-Belli&re would 
never forgive you for that/ 

With a quick sob she yielded to him. Tired and broken in spirit, 
she leaned her head against him as he stood by her. He dominated her. 
The setting sun quickened the red and gold tints of his hair. Never 
before had she known how overpowering his strength could be. She 
realised now that ever since that first morning when, like a lark before a 
bird-charmer, she had come to Versailles to be crowned Goddess of 
Spring, she had unknowingly been in the King’s hands. Possibly the 
most stubborn animal he had ever tamed, yes, but he had succeeded. 
He had always shown the patience, the stealth and the unruffled calm of 
a great wild beast lying in wait for his prey. He sat beside her, pressing 
her warmly to him, speaking tenderly. 

‘What a strange love ours is, Angelique !’ 

Is it only a question of love?’ 

Tor me, yes. If it is not love, then what is it?’ he said passionately. 
‘Angelique . . . how that name haunts my memory! When my work 
lets me, I close my eyes. A dizziness comes over me and your name 
springs to my lips . . . Angelique ! I have never known such torment 
so to distract me from my work. Sometimes I am frightened by this love 
I have allowed to penetrate my soul. It causes me a faintness like a wound 
of which I fear I shall never be healed. You alone can heal me. I 
dream . . . yes, sometimes I do dream ... of the night I shall hold 
your warm, sweet-smelling flesh close to mine, not knowing what look 
is in your eyes . . . And I dream of things more precious still, and that 
part of you which is beyond price. I dream of your smile - so light, so 
friendly, so complex - beaming on me from among the throng on some 
great day when an embassy arrives and I am only the King dragging 
my heavy robe and sceptre down the Hall of Mirrors . . . of a look from 
you that will approve my designs ... of a frown that will prove your 
jealousy ... of ordinary, tender things I shall never know.’ 

‘Haven’t your mistresses already taught you them?’ 

‘They are my mistresses, not my friends. That was the way I wanted 
it. Now it is something else . . .’ 

He gazed at her with a look in which was not desire alone but another 
sentiment compounded of tenderness and admiration and devotion, an 
expression so unusual for the King that she could not tear her eyes 
from his. She saw him clearly now as a solitary man yearning towards 
her from the top of a mountain. Ardently, silently they questioned each 
other with their eyes. The rustling of the water-organ mingling its fluty 
voice with the sound of the water in a rustic symphony enveloped them 
like an ethereal promise of happiness. Angdlique feared to succumb. 
Turning her head away, she broke the spell. 


* What has happened between us, Angelique? What has come between 
us? What is this barrier I sense in you, which I storm in vain?’ 

She put her hand to her forehead and tried to laugh. T don't know. 
Pride perhaps, or fear. I haven't the things I need for that hard task of 
being a royal mistress.' 

‘Hard task? What a cruel way of speaking you have 1’ 

‘I'm sorry, Sire. But let me speak frankly while there is yet time. 
To be always dazzling, to be always dissembling, to bear the weight of 
jealousy and intrigue and . . . Your Majesty's infidelity, that is not for 
me. To be something one tosses aside like a toy no longer fun to play 
with takes more ambition, or more love. It broke Mademoiselle de la 
Valliere, and I am not so thick-skinned as Madame de Montespan.' She 
rose abruptly. ‘Stay faithful to her, Sire. She has a strength to match 
yours, not I. Don't tempt me any more.' 

‘Are you tempted?' 

He wrapped her in his arms and buried his face in her golden hair. 
‘Your fears are groundless, my lovely. . . . You know me only on the 
surface. For what other woman would I have been so forgiving? The 
soft ones are whining ninnies. The ambitious have to be beaten down 
lest they devour me. But you . . . you were bom to be a sultana-bachi, 
as that dark prince said who wished to carry you away with him. The 
one who can dominate a king. I accept the title. I bow. I love you in a 
hundred different ways - for your weakness, for your sadness I would 
so like to dispel, for your splendour I would so like to possess, for your 
intelligence which confounds me but which I need as much as I need 
precious things of gold and marble about me, almost too beautiful in 
their perfection than one should have near one, as a token of wealth 
and strength. You have given me what I lacked - confidence.' 

He had taken her face in his hands and was raising her to him as if he 
never tired of trying to plumb her mystery. 

‘I expect everything from you, and I know that if you consented to 
love me, you would not deceive me. But so long as you are not mine, so 
long as I do not hear your voice moaning in a swoon of love, I am afraid. 
I fear you waiting to trap me in sly deception. That is why I want to 
hasten the hour of your surrender. For then I shall have nothing to fear, 
neither you nor the whole earth. . . . Have you ever imagined that, 
Angelique . . . You and I together . . . What we could not do? What 
conquests we could not undertake? What glories we could not expect? 
. . . You and I together . . . We would be invincible.' 

She did not answer it. It was as if a mighty wind had shaken her to her 
very foundations. She kept her eyes closed and offered the King only her 


pale, pale face in which he could decipher nothing. He understood that 
the moment of grace had passed. He sighed. 

‘You don’t want to answer without thinking? That is only wise. And 
you don’t like my having stopped you, I can see. Well, hot-head, I grant 
you another week of penitence to calm your resentment and reflea on 
my words in solitude. So back to your hotel in Paris until next Sunday. 
Then Versailles shall see you once more, lovelier than ever, more beloved 
if that is possible, and more triumphant over my heart in spite of your 
guilty straying. Alas, you have taught me that great as a king may be, 
he cannot command love, only loyalty, not even equal desire. But I shall 
be patient. I shall not despair. Another day will come when we shall 
embark for Cythera. Yes, my darling, there shall come a day when I 
shall lead you into Trianon. I have had built there a little porcelain 
pagoda to love you in, far from the din, far from the intrigues that 
frighten you, with only the flowers and the trees to know we are there. 
You shall be the first to use it. Every stone, every object has been chosen 
for you. Do not protest. Leave me only hope. I know how to wait.’ 

Holding her by the hand, he led her to the entrance of the grotto. 

‘Sire, may I ask you for news of my son?’ 

The King’s face darkened. ‘Ah, that’s one more worry your turbulent 
family has caused me. I have had to remove the little page from his 

‘Because of my fall from grace?’ 

‘By no means. I had no intention of making him suffer for that. But 
his condua displeased me. Twice he pretended that Duchesnes, my 
head steward, wanted to poison me, that’s all. He pretended he had seen 
him put a powder in my food and he accused him of it noisily. From 
the fire in his eyes and the distinctness of his voice I knew he had in- 
herited his mother’s boldness. “Sire, do not eat that dish and do not 
drink that wine,” he said loudly and clearly just after the test had been 
made. “Monsieur Duchesnes has put poison into it.” ’ 

‘Oh, dear!’ Angelique sighed disconsolately. ‘Sire I don’t know how 
to tell you how embarrassed I am. The boy is very high-strung and 

‘The second time he played the prank, I had to be firm. I did not want 
to punish too severely a boy I was interested in because of my fondness 
for you. Monsieur was there. He found the boy amusing, and wanted 
to engage him. I gave him permission. Your boy is now at Saint-Cloud, 
where my brother has just taken up his springtime residence.’ 

Angelique turned all the colours of the rainbow. ‘You let my son go 
to that sewer!’ 


‘Madame!’ thundered the King. ‘Another of your intolerable ex- 
pressions!’ Then he softened and began to laugh. ‘But that’s the way 
you are, nothing can change you. Come, don’t exaggerate the dangers 
that threaten your boy in that, I agree, rather immoral establishment. 
His tutor, the Abbe, follows him everywhere, and so does his squire. I 
wanted to please you. I am sorry I have succeeded so poorly. Of course, 
you will want to go to Saint-Cloud, so merely ask me for permission and 
anything else I can do for you.’ 

‘Sire, let me go to Saint-Cloud.’ 

‘I will do more. I shall give you a message for Madame so that she 
will receive you and keep you with her a day or so. Then you can visit 
your son at leisure.’ 

‘Sire, you are too generous.’ 

‘Only too loving. Do not forget that again, Madame, and do not toy 
with my heart.’ 

Florimond’s eyes looked straight into hers. 

‘I swear I am not lying, mother. Monsieur Duchesnes is poisoning the 
King. I have seen him several times. He puts a white powder under 
his fingernail and flicks it into His Majesty’s goblet between the time 
he tastes the wine himself and the time he hands it to the King.’ 

‘Come, come, my boy, such a thing is impossible. Besides, the King has 
suffered no ill effects from this so-called poisoning.’ 

‘I don’t know about that. Perhaps it’s a slow- working poison.’ 

‘Florimond, you don’t know what you’re saying. A child should not 
speak about such matters. Don’t forget the King is surrounded by 
devoted servants.’ 

‘Who doesn’t know that?’ Florimond said. 

He looked at his mother with the same sympathetic condescension 
as Marie- Agnes had done. For an hour she had striven to get him to 
admit he had been making the story up. She felt on the verge of an 
emotional crisis. She certainly was not equipped to bring up such an 
imaginative child. He had already grown away from her. Now he was 
going his own way self-confidently, and she had too many cares of her 
own to attend to him properly. 

‘But who could have put such an idea into your head that the King 
was being poisoned?’ 

‘Everyone talks about poison,’ he said frankly. ‘The other day the 
Duchesse de Vitry asked me to carry her train. She was going to 
Malvoisin's in Paris. I listened at the keyhole while she consulted the 


old witch. Well, she asked for poison to slip into her old husband's 
soup, and also a powder to attract the love of Monsieur de Vivonne. 
The Marquis de Cossac’s page told me his master had gone to ask for 
the secret of winning at cards, and at the same time for some poison for 
his brother the Comte de Clermont-Ledeve whose heir he is. And,' Flori- 
mond finished with a flourish, ‘the Comte de Clermont-Ledeve died a 
week ago/ 

‘My child, don’t you know what harm you can do yourself by retail- 
ing these slanders so freely?’ said Angelique, trying to keep her patience. 
‘No one will want a page in his service who gossips so at random/ 

‘But I am not gossiping/ shouted Florimond, stamping his red heel 
on the floor. ‘I’m trying to tell you, but I think . . . yes, I really think 
you must be dumb/ He turned away with a gesture of wounded dignity, 
and stared out of the window at the blue sky to conceal his trembling 
lip. He was too old to cry, but tears of frustration welled into his eyes 
just the same. 

Angelique did not know what tack to try next. There was something 
about the boy she could not fathom. He was surely lying unnecessarily 
and with vexing assurance, but for what purpose? In despair she turned 
to the Abbe de Lesdiguieres and blamed him. 

‘This boy needs a spanking. I don’t think much of your discipline/ 
The young priest turned red up to the edge of his wig. ‘Madame, I do 
my best. Through his job Florimond has come into contact with cer- 
tain secrets he thinks he knows the answer to . . / 

‘Teach him at least to keep them/ Angelique said drily. 

As he began to stammer, she remembered he was one of Madame de 
Choisy’s proteges. To what extent had he spied on her and betrayed 

Florimond had mastered his tears. He said he had to go for a walk 
with the litde princesses and asked to be allowed to leave. He went out 
by the window in a gait he tried to make dignified, but as soon as he 
had crossed the terrace at the entrance steps, he broke into a run. They 
could hear him singing. He was like a butterfly intoxicated with the 
lovely spring day. The park at Saint-Cloud with its endless lawns was 
full of the chirping of tree-toads. 

‘What do you think of all this, Monsieur de Lesdiguieres?’ 
‘Madame, I have never caught Florimond in a lie/ 

‘You want to defend your pupil, of course, but in doing so you will 
spoil your sense of evaluation . . / 

Who doesn’t know that?’ said the Abbe, using Florimond’s ex- 
pression. He clasped his hands tighdy together in a gesture of anxiety. 


‘At Court even the greatest shows of loyalty are open to suspicion. We 
are surrounded by spies . . .’ 

‘You should know a great deal about spies, Monsieur l’Abbe, since 
you were paid by Madame de Choisy to snoop on me and betray me.’ 

The Abbe turned pale as death. His girlish eyes widened. He began 
to shake and finally fell on his knees. ‘Pardon, Madame. It is true. 
Madame de Choisy put me in your household to spy on you, but I did 
not betray you. I take my oath on that. I would never have done you 
the slightest wrong, Madame, not you, never V 

Angelique got up and went to look out of the window. 

‘Believe me, Madame/ the young man begged again. 

‘All right, I believe you/ she said tiredly. ‘But tell me, then, who did 
denounce me to the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament? Was it 
Swordthrust Malbrant? It's not the sort of role for him/ 

‘No, Madame. Your squire is a good man. Madame de Choisy placed 
him with you to help his family which is an honourable one in its 

‘What about the Gilandon girls?’ 

The Abbe hesitated. He was still on his knees. 

‘I know Marie-Anne went to see her benefactress a few days before 
your arrest/ 

‘Then it was she. What a louse of an ingrate ! You are doing well in 
your profession, Abbe. I don’t doubt if you keep on you’ll be a bishop 
some day.’ 

‘It’s not easy to live, Madame/ the Abbe murmured softly. ‘Think 
of what I owe Madame de Choisy. I was the youngest in a family of 
twelve children, and the fourth boy. There was not always enough to 
eat in our castle. I was drawn to the Church because I like to study and 
do good. Madame de Choisy paid for me to go to seminary for several 
years. When she got me a place in the world she told me to report all 
the immorality I observed so that I could combat the forces of evil. I 
found it a noble and inspiring duty. But when I entered your household, 
Madame . . / 

Still on his knees, he looked at her with such spaniel eyes that she took 
pity on the romantic passion she had aroused in his frank and open 

He was of that breed of petty nobility who grow up in crumbling old 
castles without a penny to make a career for themselves, and have 
nothing to offer but what they do possess - their souls and their bodies. 
That was the kind that Monsieur, the King’s brother, made the prey of 
his unnatural desires. It was better for a younger son of a good family 

to hire out to Virtue. This reflection led her to other concerns. 

‘Get up/ she snapped. 1 forgive you because I think you are sincere/ 

1 am devoted to you, Madame, and I love Florimond like a brother. 
Are you going to separate us?’ 

‘No. In spite of everything, I feel easier when I know he is with you. 
But Monsieur's circle is the last place I would choose for him. No one 
knows how depraved that prince's tastes are and those who surround 
him. A lively, pretty boy like Florimond is not safe there/ 

‘That is quite true, Madame,' said the Abbe, who had got to his feet 
and was unobtrusively dusting off his knees. ‘I have already fought a 
duel with Antoine Maurel, Sieur de Volone, who is perhaps the biggest 
rogue of them all - thief, blasphemer, atheist, sodomite. He trains and 
sells boys as if they were horses; he carries on his trade in the boxes 
at the Opera. His eye lit on Florimond and he tried to seduce him, but 
I interfered. So we fought a duel. Maurel resigned after I wounded him 
in the arm. I also duelled with the Comte d.e Beuvron and the Marquis 
d’Effiat. I made it clear that the boy was a protege of the King and 
that I would complain to His Majesty if he suffered the slightest harm. 
Everyone knows you are his mother and that your influence with the 
King is not to be sneezed at. Fnally I worked it that he was appointed 
companion to the two little princesses, and so he has been somewhat 
removed from that strange society. Oh, Madame, I have had to 
accustom my eyes and ears to plenty of things around here. At 
Monsieur’s rising they talk about boys the way a bunch of young bloods 
might talk about girls. The women are the worst because you can't 
fight a duel with them. Mesdames de Blanzac, d'Espiney de Melun, 
and de Grancy all haunt me like a mythological monster, and I don't 
know how to get rid of them.' 

‘Don't tell me they're after Florimond, too.' 

‘No, it's me they want.' 

‘Oh, you poor thing,' exclaimed Angelique, not knowing whether to 
laugh at him or pity him. ‘My poor little Abbe, what a task you've 
taken on. I absolutely must get you out of here.' 

‘Don't worry, Madame. I know that Florimond has to have a career 
and he can only get ahead in a prince's household. I try to protect him 
and strengthen his character and keep him from getting cynical by 
shielding him from too much depravity. Everything is possible when the 
soul is strong and when God’s help is sought. That's the real meaning 
of my function as his tutor, isn't it?’ 

‘It certainly is, but you did not have to agree to bring him here.' 

‘It is very hard to go against the King's decisions, Madame. It seemed 

3 l 9 

to me that the dangers he would encounter here might be less than 
those that lay in wait for him at Versailles/ 

'What do you mean?' 

The Abbe looked around him cautiously, then came over to her. 
‘I am sure two attempts were made on his life/ 

'Now you’re really out of your head, my boy/ said Angelique shrug- 
ging her shoulders violently. 'You are obsessed to the point of delirium 
with the notion that your pupil is being persecuted. Who would want 
to take the life of a child of that age, the youngest and the most 
famous in the whole Court?’ 

'A page whose clear littie voice sometimes tells embarrassing truths 
a bit too loudly/ 

‘I don’t want to hear any more. I am certain you are out of your 
head. You’ve been hearing too many ghost stories, and believing them. 
Duchesne has the reputation of an honourable man/ 

'Don’t all those who live at Court have an honourable reputation, 
Madame? Who would dare label anyone else there a scoundrel or a 
criminal? How unseemly that would be I ’ 

'You are painting everything too dark. I don’t doubt you are Flori- 
mond’s guardian angel, but I would like you to apply yourself to sub- 
duing his imagination and your own at the same time. For the time 
being I am not going to believe Master Florimond, the two hundredth 
and last page of the King’s Wine Service. It’s absurd/ 

'Not believe a page who is your own son, Madame? Oh, Madame, I 
beg you, don’t turn your back on those who are unquestionably loyal 
to you. Don’t you know you have many enemies? How they would 
like to trip you into some hidden pitl Don’t leave a stone unturned in 
protecting yourself. If anything happened to you, I would die of 

'You are not lacking in eloquence, little Abb6/ Angelique said 
kindly. 'I must recommend you to Monsieur Bossuet. A little inspira- 
tion never hurts a sermon. I think you may turn out to be someone, and 
I’ll do my best to help you/ 

'Oh, Madame, is this the way you have let yourself lapse into the 
cynicism of the Court ladies?’ 

'I am no cynic, my boy. But I would like to see you with both feet on 
the ground a little more/ 

The Abbe de Lesdiguieres opened his mouth to make one last protest, 
but the arrival of someone in the room where they were talking inter- 
rupted him. He bowed and went in search of his pupil. 

Angelique went back into the drawing-room. The doors were wide 


open to let in the fresh spring air. In the distance one could see Paris. 

As the King had advised her to do, Madame sent her majordomo to 
ask Madame du Plessis to stay at Saint-Cloud until the following day. 
Angelique accepted lisdessly. In spite of all its charm and luxury, 
Monsieur’s Court was too ambiguous and disquieting. The Prince’s 
women were as disreputable as his catamites. Angelique encountered 
there all the persons she had deliberately avoided at Versailles. Bold 
and handsome women, for the most part extremely wicked and even 
worse than wicked, amused Monsieur with their quarrels and intrigues, 
and he lapped up their vulgar gossip like a concierge. He was not 
unintelligent and he had shown that he was courageous in military 
campaigns, but he had been so perverted that he inevitably relapsed 
into completely idle ways and vices. 

Angelique tried to spot that unblest Prince of Sodom, ‘handsome as 
an angel in a painting’, the Chevalier de Lorraine, who for years had 
been Monsieur’s favourite and had in fact become the master of the 
Palais Royal and of Saint-Cloud. She was surprised at not finding him. 
She asked Lady Gordon, a Scotswoman she liked and a member of 
Madame’s suite, what the story was. 

‘What? Don’t you know? Where have you been? Lorraine is in 
disgrace. First he was put in prison for a while, then sent into exile to 
Rome. It’s a great victory for Madame. For years she has fought to get 
the better of her worst enemy, and now at last the King has listened to 

She offered Angelique the hospitality for the night of the ante- 
chamber where she slept with the other Maids of Honour, and there 
she told her the whole story of the last skirmish in which Madame had 
won the victory she had so long despaired of. Lorraine had been arrested 
right in the Prince’s bedroom by the Comte d’Ayan in spite of the fact 
that it was surrounded by Monsieur’s bodyguards. Monsieur had wept 
and howled with despair, and had dragged Madame off to Villers- 
Cotterets to get her out of the way. Ever since, things had begun to 
improve a little. Monsieur still wept a good deal, but Madame’s position 
was unassailable because the King was on her side. 

Angelique went to sleep with her ears ringing with the scabrous 
details. She worried about Florimond, and she had the feeling that she 
was being menaced by a thousand different things slithering around 
her like serpents. 

At daybreak she was awakened by a gentle knocking at the door 
against which she was lying. When she opened it, there stood Madame, 
wrapped in a long gauze scarf and smiling at her. 


‘It’s you I wanted to see, Madame du Plessis. Will you go for a walk 
with me?’ 

‘I am at Your Royal Highness’s command/ Angelique replied. 

They descended the staircase of the silent palace in which the guards 
were drowsing against their halberds. Angelique thought of the castle 
of the Sleeping Beauty. 

Dawn was breaking over the dewy lawns of the park. In the distance 
Paris lurked behind the morning mists. It was so chilly that Angelique 
was thankful she had brought along a cloak. 

T love to walk in the early morning like this/ the Princess said, 
stepping along at a brisk pace. ‘I don’t sleep well. I read most of the 
night, and just as I thought I could finally doze oS, the daylight aroused 
me. Do you like to read?’ 

Angelique confessed she rarely found time for literature. 

‘Even in prison?’ asked Henriette d’Angleterre with a knowing laugh. 

But she was not being malicious, she was just disenchanted. 

T know so few persons here who like to read. Take my brother-in-law, 
the King. He doesn’t like it if a novelist or a playwright fails to give 
him a first edition of his work, but he has no intention of reading a word 
of it. But I read from taste. I should like to write, too. Shall we sit down?’ 

They sat on a marble bench in a circular spot where several paths 
converged. The Princess had hardly changed at all since the time 
Angelique used to go to her card parties at the Louvre. She was small 
and had an elfin grace. Her porcelain skin made her seem more delicate 
than her Bourbon and Hapsburg relatives, whose gross manners and 
ignorance she quite openly criticised. She ate like a bird and slept even 
less, and her interest in art and letters was genuine. She had been the 
first to encourage Moliere, and now she was beginning to patronise the 
fastidious Racine. Although she had a certain admiration for the 
Princess’s intelligence, Angelique found her too bizarre. She made every- 
one feel rather earnest, and the very things that might have made her 
attractive elsewhere only wove a net of isolation about her here. This 
she was not aware of, but it pained her none the less, and gave her blue 
eyes a distracted look. 

‘Madame/ she began after a moment of silence, ‘I come to you 
because you are said to be a very rich woman, as well as an obliging 
and discreet one. Could you lend me four thousand pistoles ?’ 

Angelique needed all her aplomb to keep from falling over back- 

‘I need that much to prepare for my trip to England/ Princess 
Henriette continued. ‘I am riddled with debts. I’ve already pawned part 


of my jewels, and it’s no use my pleading poverty before the King. Still 
it is for his sake that I am going to England. He has entrusted me with 
a mission of the highest importance - to prevent my brother Charles 
from joining the new alliance between the Dutch, the Spanish and the 
Germans. I should be brilliant and seductive so as to make France 
popular in every possible way, and that won’t be easy if I have to appear 
in a dress too tight to sit down in. That’s a manner of speaking, of 
course, as I’m sure you understand, my dear. You know what these 
embassies are like. You have to squander money like water for bribes 
and good will and signatures. If I appear stingy, I won’t succeed, and 
succeed I must/ 

As she talked her cheeks had reddened, yet she concealed her em- 
barrassment with her easy manner of speaking. It was this embarrass- 
ment, so uncustomary for her, that inclined Angelique to be generous. 

1 hope Your Highness will forgive me for not being able to give you 
all you ask. I would have a good deal of trouble raising four thousand 
pistoles so quickly, but I can promise you three thousand for certain. 

‘My dear, what a comfort you are to me!’ Madame exclaimed. 
Apparently she had not hoped for so much. ‘You can be sure I will 
repay you as soon as I return. My brother is fond of me, and he will 
certainly give me gifts. If you only knew how important this is for me ! 
I promised the King I would succeed. I owe it to him to do so, for he has 
paid me in advance/ 

She took Angelique’s hands and squeezed them in appreciation. 
Hers were cold and thin. She was on the verge of tears from nervous- 

‘If I failed, it would be a terrible blow. I got the Chevalier de 
Lorraine exiled only in exchange for this. If I fail, he will return. I 
would not be able to endure it if that monster were to run my house- 
hold again. I am no angel by any means, but his influence over Monsieur 
and his followers has gone beyond the limit of endurance. I can’t stand 
it. His antipathy for us women has reached the point of actual hatred - 
all the work of that Chevalier de Lorraine. Once I thought I could get 
around him. I sensed the danger in him. If I had been richer then, per- 
haps I would have succeeded, but Monsieur offered him enormous sums, 
and perquisites that the King gladly granted. I couldn’t match them. 
Like a rapist who doesn’t care what he does so long as he gets what he 
wants, he laid hold of Monsieur and robbed him of shame and money/ 

Angelique did not try to stop her flow of words. She could see that 
the Princess was in a highly nervous state. She must have been frantic 
about this loan and dubious of getting it up to the last moment. Her 

3 2 3 

closest friends were more accustomed to intrigue and debauchery than 

‘Will you promise I can have the money before I leave?' she asked 

‘I give you my word, Your Highness. I will have to consult my business 
manager, but a week from today three thousand pistoles will be in your 

‘How good you are! You restore my faith. I didn't know where to 
turn for help. Monsieur has been spiteful to me since the Chevalier's 
exile. He treats me like the worst of his . . . creatures.' 

She continued her confidences in bits and pieces. Doubdess she would 
later be sorry for it, for experience had taught her that she always 
trusted the wrong person. She would tell herself that Madame du 
Plessis was either dangerous or a fool. But for the moment she was 
having the rare experience of finding a friendly ear into which to pour 
her troubles. She was telling Angelique now about the struggle she had 
carried on for years to get away from her household and even her 
house and from the filth they were mired in. Everything had gone wrong 
from the very start. She should never have married Monsieur. 

‘He is jealous of my intelligence, and my fear that no one likes me 
or even thinks well of me will haunt me the rest of my days.' 

She had hoped to be Queen of France, but she did not say so. This 
was one of the heavy grievances she bore Monsieur - that he was not 
his brother. The way in which she spoke of the King was full of bitter- 

‘If he weren’t so afraid my brother Charles would make this alliance, 
I would never have got a thing from him. My tears, my shame, my 
grief, mean nothing to him. He doesn't care about his brother's degrada- 

‘Are you sure, Your Royal Highness, that you are not exaggerating? 
The King surely can’t like to see . . .' 

‘Oh yes, I know him well. It's rather to the advantage of a man on 
the throne to see those nearest to him by birth sink lower and lower 
into vice. That way his own grandeur and strength of character seem 
all the greater. My husband’s pets are no threat to the royal power. All 
they need is gold and gifts and lucrative sinecures. The King gives 
them out freely. Lorraine got everything he wanted from him. He is 
sure of Monsieur's loyalty. The King has no fear that he will turn into 
an insurrectionist like their uncle Gaston d'Orleans. But this time I 
spoke up. Because he needed me he had to give me what I wanted. I 
recalled to him that I am the daughter of a king, and that if I were 


maltreated I had a brother who is a king, too, and he would avenge me/ 

She sighed deeply, and put her hand over her heart to still its throb- 

1 shall win in the end, and yet I can’t help being afraid. I am sur- 
rounded by so much hatred. Several times Monsieur has threatened to 
poison me/ 

Angelique jumped. ‘Madame, you must not give way to such morbid 

‘I don’t know whether they are morbid or just plain looking at the 
facts. People die easily these days/ 

Angelique thought of Florimond and the exhortations of the Abbe de 
Lesdiguieres, and fear rose in her like an icy serpent. 

‘If Your Highness is convinced, you must work hard to protect your- 
self. Tell the police your suspicions and get protection from them/ 

Madame looked at her as if she had said the most incongruous thing 
possible. Then she burst into laughter. 

‘You astonish me with the simple ideas you have. The police? Do 
you mean those bullies La Raynie bosses around, like Desgrez who 
was ordered to arrest my counsellor Cosnac, Bishop of Valence? Don’t 
be silly, my dear, I know them only too well. They are not going to 
stick their long red noses into our affairs/ 

She arose and smoothed down her ice-blue gown of grosgrain silk. 
Small as she was, she carried herself like a queen. She seemed taller 
than Angelique, though she was shorter. 

‘Remember we have no other recourse at Court but to defend our- 
selves alone or . . . die/ she said calmly. 

They walked back in silence. The green lawns of the park were like 
velvet, and the breeze wafted to them the fragrance of die blossoming 
trees. There was none of the formality of Versailles here. Madame had 
designed it all in the English fashion, perhaps the only taste she and 
Monsieur had in common. When the King came to Saint-Cloud, he was 
offended by what he called ‘this disorder’. 

There was a melancholy smile on the Princess’s lips. Nothing could 
distract her from the fear that haunted her days. 

‘If you only knew/ she said, ‘how gladly I would stay in England, 
and never, never come back here ! ’ 



‘Madame/ demanded the beggars, ‘Madame, when are we going to the 
King so he can touch our sores?* 

They were crowding into the Hotel du Beautreillis. With Angelique 
as their intermediary they thought themselves as good as cured already. 
She promised them that the following Sunday they could take pan in 
the ceremony. She knew the steps she would have to take, but she was 
so busy with her own preparations for returning to Coun that she 
decided to go to Madame Scarron to ask her to take her little troop of 
beggars to the King’s doctor. 

She recalled that she had not seen the young widow for some time. 
The last time . . . why, it was during the great fetes at Versailles in 
1668. Two years! What had happened to Frangoise since then? Ange- 
lique was full of remorse as she stopped her sedan chair before the 
door of the modest house in which Madame Scarron had been hiding 
her poverty for years. 

She knocked on the door in vain, but from little signs she was sure 
there was someone in the house. Perhaps it was only a maid, but if so, 
why didn’t she come to the door? Finally Angelique gave up. At the 
next cross-street a jam of coaches made her bearers stop. Unconsciously 
Angelique looked back up the street they had just left. Somewhat to 
her surprise she saw the door of Madame Scarron’s house open and 
the young widow herself step out. She wore a mask and was wrapped 
up in a dark cloak, but Angelique easily recognised her. 

‘This is too much/ she exclaimed as she jumped out of her sedan 

She told the lackeys to go back to the Hotel du Beautreillis without 
her. Putting her hood over her head, she started out after Madame 
Scarron. The widow walked rapidly in spite of the two heavy baskets 
she was carrying. There was something mysterious about her, and 
Angelique decided to trail her without catching up with her. As she 
came to the Cit£, Madame Scarron went to the steps of the Palace 
and hired one of the plain wheel-chairs drawn by one man and called 
vinaigrettes . 

After waiting a moment, Angelique decided to continue on foot, as a 
vinaigrette never moved very fast. Later she regretted this decision. She 
thought she would never stop walking. She crossed the Seine and started 
down an endless street which eventually turned into a sunken road 


that terminated out in the country near Vaugirard. Angelique had to 
slow down and so lost sight of the vehicle for a while. She was dis- 
appointed to see the vinaigrette turn out of a lane and head back 

She would not have it said that she had come this far in vain. She 
ran behind the porter and slipped him an ecu . For such a regal tip he 
had no hesitation in pointing out to her the house where he had left 
his passenger. 

It was one of the new houses that were being built in increasing 
numbers in the suburbs between the smallholders’ rows of cabbages 
and the sheepfolds. Angelique lifted the bronze knocker. After a long 
wait she saw a hand open the peep-hole, and a maid’s voice asked what 
she wanted. 

‘ I should like to see Madame Scarron.’ 

‘There’s no Madame Scarron here. I don’t know anyone by that name.’ 
She shut the peep-hole. 

Angelique’s curiosity was aroused by all this mystery. ‘My dear/ she 
said, ‘you don’t know me if you think I’m going to give up.’ 

There was only one way to make Francois e show herself and she was 
going to use it. 

She beat a tattoo on the door with all her might until the peep-hole 
opened again. 

‘I tell you there is no Madame Scarron here/ the servant shouted. 

‘In that case, tell her I am here on behalf of the King/ 

The hand behind the bars hesitated, then after a long moment 
chains rattled, bolts were shot and the door creaked open. She squeezed 
through into the house. Fran£oise Scarron was leaning over the railing 
at the top of the staircase with an anxious expression on her face. 

‘Angelique! For heaven’s sake, what’s wrong?’ 

‘You don’t seem very glad to see me. I have had a dreadful time 
catching up with you. How are you?’ 

She went up the stairs and kissed her friend enthusiastically, but 
Fran^oise was wary. 

‘So the King sent you? Why you? Has something been changed since 
his last instructions?’ 

‘I don’t think so/ said Angelique. ‘This is a strange way for you to 
act. Are you annoyed with me because I haven’t been to see you for so 
long? Let me explain why. Can’t we go in and sit down?’ 

‘No! No!’ Madame Scarron said quickly blocking the way, her 
arms spread out across the door of the room Angelique wanted to enter. 
‘No. Tell me first/ 


‘Now, Frangoise, we can't just stand here on the stairs. What's hap- 
pened to you? You aren't the same woman I used to know. If you are 
in trouble, never think I wouldn't help you.' 

Madame Scarron did not seem to hear her. ‘What exactly did the 
King say to you?’ 

‘The King has nothing to do with it, Franchise, I confess. I wanted 
to see you and just used his name as a kind of Open Sesame.' 

Madame Scarron covered her face with her hands. ‘Oh Lord, this 
is frightful 1 You to come here ! I am ruined . . .' Observing that the 
servants in the entrance hall were looking at them with curiosity, she 
ended by shoving Angelique into the little living-room. ‘Well, come in. 
Now, where were we . . . ?' 

The first thing Angelique noticed was a cradle near the window that 
seemed to have an occupant. She went over to it and saw a baby only a 
few months old smiling happily. 

‘So that's your secret, my poor Francoise! He's sweet, and you 
shouldn't have been uneasy on my account. You can depend on me to 
keep your secret.’ 

So the stubborn virtue of the young widow had at last yielded I She 
owed all her success in life to her reputation, and yet here she was in 
quite an embarrassing situation. 

‘You must have had a dreadful time. Why didn't you tell your friends? 
We would have helped you.’ 

Francoise Scarron shook her head and smiled wanly. ‘No, Angelique, 
it's not at all what you think. Take a good look at that baby, and you 
will see.’ 

The baby looked up at her with sapphire-blue eyes which, as a matter 
of fact, did seem familiar to her. ‘Eyes as blue as the sea,' she thought. 
Suddenly it dawned on her -this was the child of Madame de 
Montespan and the King. 

‘That's right,' said Madame Scarron, wagging her head. ‘You see what 
a spot I am in. If it hadn’t been the King himself who asked me, I 
would never have done it. I have to take care of this baby in such utter 
secrecy that no one will ever suspect he exists. The Marquis de 
Montespan could claim him by law, as he is quite capable of doing. You 
can see what a scandal that would make. So, I'm no longer alive . . .’ 

She drew Angelique down beside her on a sofa. Now that her 
initial annoyance was over, she wanted the comfort of someone to talk 
to. She explained how Louvois had recommended her to the King when, 
as soon as the royal bastard was born, the question arose of who could 
take care of him well and discreetly. According to law, the child be- 


longed to the husband of Madame de Montespan, since she and the 
King were married each to another person. Pardaillan, being the person 
he was, could well be feared. So it was a question not only of bringing 
up the child but of hiding his origins and guarding him with the 
greatest possible care. The job required complete loyalty, intelligence, 
and shrewdness. When Madame Scarron was sounded out, she accepted. 

The King was a littie hesitant about me. I don’t think he likes me, 
he has seen me so often. But Louvois and Athenais insisted. Athenais 
and I have been thick for ever so long. She knows what she can expect 
from me, and I would have been ungrateful to refuse her after all she 
has done for me. Ever since, I have lived as apart from the world as if 
I had taken the veil. If only I had found peace as well! But I have to 
see to the house here, supervise the nurse, the cradle-rocker, the servants, 
none of whom know who I am or whose the child is. And all the while 
I have to keep putting in an appearance here and there, and living at 
home so that no one will suspect what Fm doing. I go in at one door, and 
out at another in secret, and when I go to visit my friends I take the 
precaution of being bled first so that I won’t blush at lying in answer to 
the questions I’m asked. I hope God will forgive me. Lying is the least 
of the sacrifices the service of the King demands.’ 

She talked with the good humour with which she had always made 
light of her woes. Angelique gathered that at heart she was rather 
pleased with her own importance. In spite of its hazards, the post was 
an enviable one and gave her a front seat in the life of the King. 

The baby whimpered and Franfoise got up to see to it. She smoothed 
its blankets and pillow in the same housewifely way she did everything. 
Like many women who live alone and remote from the world of 
children, her feelings about her ‘baby’ were not very spontaneous. She 
had never known what it was to play with a baby and leave its tire- 
some moments to the nurse. But it was easy to see that this child 
would get from her everything it needed for the development of its 
body, its mind, and its soul. She was the perfect governess. 

‘He could be healthier,’ she said to Angelique. ‘You see, he was bom 
with a slightly twisted foot, and they’re afraid he may grow up with a 
limp. I mentioned it to the King’s doctor, who is also in on the secret, 
and he said he thought the waters at Bereges might prevent such a 
deformity. So in the summer I must take him there. You can see how 
my job doesn’t leave me a free moment, and what’s more it will get 
worse before it gets better. Soon I’ll have two to be responsible for/ 

‘So the rumours that Madame de Montespan is pregnant again are 

3 2 9 

‘Alas l ' 

'Why alas?’ 

‘Athenai's was in despair when she told me/ 

‘She ought to rejoice. Isn't it a new and unmistakable proof of the 
King's favour toward her?' 

‘Alas!' Madame Scarron said again, staring at Angelique, until she 
had to turn her eyes away. 

Fran$oise lowered her own eyes. There was a silence in the room. 

‘She is in a frightful state/ said the widow. ‘She comes here every now 
and then, not to see her baby, but to confide in me and spill all her 
worries. At Versailles she has to keep smiling all the time. It is no secret 
that the King's affections are straying.' She looked Angelique straight 
in the face. ‘And that he is in love with you, Angelique/ 

Angelique tried to shrug it off. ‘It's no secret to anyone that the King 
had me arrested and thrown into prison. That's a fine proof of his lovel' 

Madame Scarron wagged her head. She would have liked to hear 
more, but just then the wheels of a coach screeched to a stop outside. 
Someone rapped impatiendy at the door, and a moment later Athenais's 
imperious tones resounded in the entrance hall. Fran^oise turned white. 
She tried to get Angelique to hide in a wardrobe, but Angelique refused. 
The house was small and had no curtained alcoves. 

‘Don't be silly!' What are you afraid of? I'll explain why I'm here. 
War has never been declared between us.' 

She withdrew a little as Madame de Montespan entered swathed in 
veils. She hurled her fan and her purse on a table, and then a box of 
lozenges, her gloves and even her watch. 

‘This is too much,' she said. ‘I have just found out he met her the 
other day in the Grotto of Thetis.' 

Then she turned and saw Angelique. Apparently the image of her 
rival was clearly etched in her mind, because for several seconds she 
thought she was having an hallucination. Angelique took advantage 
of the pause to launch her offensive. 

‘I must apologise to you over and over again. Athenais. I didn't know 
when I came here that I was intruding into your house. I wanted to see 
Frangoise, whose goings and comings intrigued me so I followed her 

Madame de Montespan had turned purple. Her eyes were flashing 
with the fire of unspoken rage. 

‘You must believe me,' Angelique insisted, ‘when I tell you Madame 
Scarron did everything to keep me from finding out your secret. He is 
in good hands. I am the only one to blame.' 


‘Oh, I believe you,' exclaimed Athenais with a burst of harsh laughter. 
‘Fran$oise isn't such a fool as to perpetrate such a blunder knowingly/ 
She sank into an armchair and stretched out her pink satin slippers. 
‘Take these off for me/ she said to Franchise. ‘They're killing me/ 
Madame Scarron got down on her knees to remove them. 

‘Ask them to bring me a basin of warm benzoin water/ 

Then her gaze returned to the intruder. ‘As for you, I know you and 
your sanctimonious touch-me-not attitude. Nosey as a concierge, spy- 
ing everywhere, too mean to pay a lackey to do your dirty work for 
you 1 Your former profession of procuress that you practised in your 
chocolate shop sticks out all over you.' 

Angelique turned on her heel and started for the door. If Athenais 
were going in for insults right at the start, it would be better to break 
with her. Angelique was not afraid of her, but she had a morbid horror 
of scenes with women who accuse people to their face truly or falsely 
with words that leave a venomous sting behind. 


Athenais's imperious voice stopped her. It was hard for anyone to 
resist a Mortemart in that mood. Angelique herself felt that Athenais 
was making a slave of her, but she returned. If Athenais wanted to cross 
swords, she would fight, too. Calmly she waited, her impenetrable green 
eyes falling on the Marquise de Montespan, one of whose silk stockings 
Madame Scarron had just finished rolling off. There was a trace of 
scorn in Angelique's eyes, and in her attitude the self-possessed dis- 
interest of a person concerned only with her own affairs. 

Madame de Montespan’s flaming cheeks had faded. She knew it 
would do her no good to humiliate her rival. She changed her tone. 

* “What in-com-par-able dig-ni-ty Madame du Plessis-Belliere has!” ’ 
she said mockingly. ‘ “Just like a queen. Not to mention that mysterious 
quality of hers that seems to distinguish her.” That's how the King 
speaks of you. “Have you noticed/' he says to me, “how seldom she 
smiles? Yet she can be as gay as a child. Ah, the Court is a sad place!” 
The Court a sad place ! That's the kind of inanities you make the King 
say. That's how you have seduced him by your detached air, your lack 
of sophistication, your tumed-up nose. “Her mysteriousness,” I once 
said to him, “comes from her misfortunes before she married du Plessis 
when she had to sell her charms in unspeakable dens/' Do you know 
what he did? He slapped me.' She burst into hysterical laughter. ‘It was 
a fine time for him to slap me. The very next day they found you in bed 
with that Asiatic bandit with the long moustache. Oh, how I laughed !' 
The royal infant suddenly woke up and began to howl. Madame 


Scarron took him out of the cradle and carried him off to his nurse. 
When she returned, Madame de Montespan was weeping hot tears into 
her handkerchief, her hysterical laughter having turned into hysterical 

‘It’s too late/ she sobbed. ‘I thought that would be the end of his 
love for you, but his love survived it. He was only punishing himself in 
punishing you, and I just had to bear the brunt of his foul humour. 1 
had to believe the affairs of state could not go on without you. “I would 
have liked to ask Madame du Plessis's advice,” he would say. That's what 
I couldn't bear. He has no use for a woman's advice. He takes infinite 
pains to see that no one can possibly accuse him of doing anything 
because a woman advised him or asked him to. When he grants me a 
favour - an advancement for some one or other of my proteges - he does 
it as if he were giving me a jewel to pay me for being his mistress, not 
because he trusts my judgement. But she ... SHE! He asks her 
advice on questions of international politics.' Madame de Montespan 
shrieked as if that last adjective were the crowning blow. ‘He treats her 
like a man.’ 

‘That ought to be some reassurance to you,' said Angelique. 

‘No ! You are the only woman he has ever treated that way.’ 

‘Nonsense! Didn't Madame just get assigned to an important diplo- 
matic mission in England?’ 

‘Madame is the daughter of a King and the sister of Charles II. Besides, 
even if the King did employ her and is grateful to her for undertaking 
the project, he has nothing but loathing for her. Madame just thinks 
she has regained his friendship and perhaps even his love by this means, 
but she is sadly mistaken. The King uses her, yes, but he despises her 
more and more for being so intelligent. He doesn't like intelligence in 

Madame Scarron interrupted in an attempt to sweeten the atmosphere. 
‘What man does like intelligence in a woman?’ she sighed. ‘My dear, 
dear friends, you’re arguing about nothing. Like any other man, the 
King likes variety. Let him follow his whim, it’s a common one. With 
one he likes to chat, and with another, to sit in silence. You are in an 
enviable position, Ath6nals, and I wouldn’t make light of it if I were 
you. Whenever you try to get everything, you risk losing everything, 
and some day you’ll wake up quite surprised to find the King has for- 
saken you ... for a third charmer you haven’t foreseen.’ 

‘That’s right/ Angelique said. ‘Don't forget, Fran^oise, you’re the 
one the King is fated to marry some day, as the witch predicted. And we, 
Athenais and I, will find ourselves with our noses out of joint.’ She put 


on her cloak in preparation for leaving. ‘Don't forget that, Madame. We 
were friends once.' 

Athenais de Montspan sprang up like a jack-in-the-box. She leaped 
after Angelique and seized her by the wrists. 

‘Don't think what I just said is an admission of defeat or that I leave 
the field to you. The King is mine. He belongs to me. You shall never 
have him ! I'll tear his love for you out of his heart by the roots. And if I 
can't do that, I'll tear you out, yes, right out of the land of the living. 
He is not the sort of man to keep on loving a ghost.' 

She sunk her nails into Angelique's arm. The pain aroused Angelique's 
smouldering hatred. She had often seen in others how destructive that 
emotion could be, how it ate away at them like an acid, but at that 
moment she had never hated anyone so much in her life. All her loathing 
for Madame de Montespan began to flow out of her like seething lava, 
and she conceived for her a profoundly bitter disgust that transformed 
itself into rage. Freeing one of her arms, she struck the King's mistress 
full in the face with all her strength. Athenais shrieked. 

Madame Scarron threw herself between them. ‘Stop!' she said. ‘You 
are disgracing yourselves, ladies. Remember you both come from the 
same province. All three of us are from Poitou.’ 

Her voice was surprisingly commanding, and she dominated them 
with the calm, wise dignity that shone in her level black eyes, Ange- 
lique never could tell why that allusion to their common birthplace 
should have so deflated their anger. She withdrew and shakily descended 
the stairs. The nails of the Fury had left deep purple crescents on her 
flesh, which were beginning to ooze blood. She stopped in the vestibule 
to dab at them. Madame Scarron caught up with her there. She was too 
much a diplomat to let go so unceremoniously the woman who perhaps 
tomorrow would be the new favourite at Versailles. 

‘She hates you, Angelique,' she whispered. ‘Take good care of your- 
self. I am on your side, you know.’ 

‘A madwoman ! ' Amgelique kept telling herself to calm her nerves. 

But it was worse than that. She knew perfectly well that Athenais was 
no madwoman, but quite in control of her senses and capable of any- 
thing. Now she was hated, something she had never been before. By 
Philippe, perhaps, when he was struggling against the attraction she held 
for him, but that was not the smothering hatred which was surrounding 
her now like poison flowers. And in the wind that blew over the sandy 
hillocks of Vaugirard she seemed to hear the plaintive voice of her little 
lost page: 


The Queen has had a nosegay made 
Of the fairest lilies in the glade. 

The Marquise sniffed their fragrance sweet, 
And fell down dead at the Queen’s feet. 


After Mass the following Sunday the King went to touch the scrofulous. 
The parade proceeded from the chapel to the Salon of Diana, down the 
Great Gallery, across the Salon of Peace and into the gardens. The infirm, 
accompanied by long-robed doctors and some almoners, were waiting 
at the foot of the stairs to the Orangerie. 

Angelique followed with the ladies. By some stroke of luck Madame 
de Montespan was not present, nor was the Queen. Mademoiselle de la 
Valliere sidled up to her and told her how glad she was to see her again. 
The pathetic ex-mistress was keeping her hopes up just as long as any 
hope was possible. No one could mistake the smiles and looks the King 
gave Madame du Plessis-Belliere, and the whole Court knew that her 
disgrace had been followed immediately by restoration to favour. 

After two hours the rumour got around that refreshments were wait- 
ing in the Grove of Marais. Everyone cut across the lawn to the Royal 

Angelique saw Madame de Montespan advancing under a parasol of 
pink and blue satin edged with gold, and silver lace that her little negro 
was carrying behind her. She was full of smiles for everyone as she in- 
vited them to follow her to her favourite grove. She herself had designed 
it and supervised its construction. 

All the Queen’s lap-dogs bounded down the staircase by the Fountain 
of Latona yapping happily. Behind them came the sad-faced, ugly 
dwarfs. Then the Queen, sad-faced and ugly, too. She was out of temper 
because she had no parasol like Madame de Montespan’s to shield her 
from the sun. Presently the King joined Angelique. 

The Queen’s dwarfs began stamping out a grotesque saraband under 
the leadership of Barcarole, winding among the courtiers who were 
either delighted or shocked at the travesty. Their hoarse shouts and their 
cackling laughter drowned the music of the violins. 

The King looked at Angelique beside him as if he were hypnotised. 

‘To behold you is sometimes joy, sometimes torture. When I see the 
veins pulse in your snow-white throat I want to put my lips to it, lay 
my forehead against it. Everything in me cries out for the warmth of 


your presence. Your absence is like an icy shroud to me. I need your 
stillness, your voice, your strength. Yet I long madly to see you weaken. 
How I should like to see you sleeping beside me, tears pearling 
your lashes, vanquished in our tender combat ! And to see you awake 
with ardour renewed and bubbling out of you like cool water from a 
woodland spring as the dawn caresses your cheek with its rosy fingers. 
You blush so easily people think you are susceptible, but you are really 
as hard as a diamond. I have loved so long your hidden violence that 
now I shudder to think that some day it will tear you from my grasp 
my heart, my soul ! * 

A violent bump interrupted them. Angelique’s dish flew out of her 
hands as she was carrying it to her mouth, and shattered into a thousand 
pieces. The sherbet spilled on the ground, staining her blue gown with 
streaks of the many-coloured dessert. Barcarole had misjudged his dis- 
tance in leaping and had josded her elbow. 

'A plague on these shrimps I’ exclaimed the King furiously. He 
grabbed his walking-stick and whacked the back of the awkward dwarf, 
who scuttered away squawking like a seagull. When the Queen rose to 
his defence, the King put her in her place sharply. One of the dogs 
dashed to lap up the remains of the sherbet. 

Twenty ladies present rushed to help Angelique sponge the spots off 
her gown, or brought her napkins and water. Her glory today had been 
too dazzling. Then everyone suddenly remembered that the sun would 
soon go down and left the shade to return to the lawns and enjoy the 
daylight while it lasted. 

The little dog was writhing in agony on the ground when Barcarole 
came back to the deserted spot. He summoned Angelique and bent 
over to examine the animal’s convulsions. 

‘You see? Now I hope you will understand, Marquise of the Angels. 
I hope you will get it through your head somehow. He’s going to croak 
from eating the dessert that was intended for you. Of course it would 
not have had such a ghastly effect on you. By now you would have just 
begun to feel sick, but you would have spent a horrible night, and in 
the morning you would have been dead.’ 

‘Barcarole, it’s inconceivable, what you say. The King’s punishment 
has unsettled your reason/ 

‘So you don’t understand?’ said the dwarf. ‘You fool, didn’t you see 
the dog eat your sherbet?’ 

‘No, I was too busy with my dress. The dog might be dying of some- 
thing else, so far as that goes.’ 

‘You don’t believe me because you don’t want to believe me.’ 


‘But who would want to take my life?' 

‘What a question I For one, the woman whose place you have taken 
in the King’s affections. Do you think she has any love for you?* 

‘Madame de Montespan? That’s impossible, Barcarole. She is cold 
and wicked and likes to spread scandal, but she would never go 
that far.’ 

‘Why not? Whatever she gets her claws on she keeps tight hold of.’ 

He picked up the dog which had just given its last gasp, and threw it 
deep into the bushes. 

‘Duchesne was the one who did it. Naaman, the little negro, told me. 
She confides in him as she thinks that because he has a funny accent he 
can’t understand French. He sleeps on a cushion in the corner of her 
room and she pays no more attention to him than to a dog. Yesterday 
he was in her room when she received Duchesne. She is his bad angel. 
It was she who got him his post as the King’s steward. Naaman heard 
them mention your name and listened because he knows you. You were 
his first owner and he loved Florimond, who used to play with him 
here at Versailles and give him sweets. She told Duchesne: “It must 
come to a stop tomorrow. You’ll find an opportunity during the fete to 
bring her a drink into which you have dropped something.” Then 
she gave him a phial. Duchesne asked: “Did La Voisin prepare thi s?” 
and Montespan said: “Yes, and anything she makes it pretty effective.” 
Naaman didn’t know who La Voisin is, but I do. La Voisin was my 
patroness. Oh, she knows plenty of ways to send people into the other 

Angelique’s thoughts whirled in her brain like the scattered pieces 
of a difficult puzzle. 

‘If you are right, then Florimond was not lying. Do you think she 
would also try to poison the King? What would be her purpose?’ 

The dwarf looked doubtful. ‘Poison him? I don’t think so. But she 
has had powders La Voisin gave her put into his food to cast a spell on 
him. They had no effect whatever on the King, either good or bad. Now 
we had better scram out of here before Duchesne comes back with his 

Outside the dusky grove night was spreading over the copper sky. 
Coolly murmuring water trickled from the urns supported by cloven- 
hoofed bronze satyrs placed here and there along the walk. Barcarole 
trotted along beside Angelique like a misshapen shadow. 

‘What are you going to do now, Marquise?’ 

‘I don’t know.’ 

‘I hope you’re going to go the limit.’ 


‘What do you mean by that?’ 

‘Defend yourself the same way. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a 
tooth, as they say. You can slip the Montespan a blackspot in her soup, 
since that's her style. A few rusty knives wielded by the brotherhood 
some dark night on the Pont-Neuf will do for Duchesne. All you have 
to do is give the order.' 

Angelique kept silent. The evening mists were making her shiver. She 
did not want to believe him yet. 

‘There's nothing else to do, Marquise,' whispered Barcarole. ‘Unless 
you want to give it all up. She is going to keep the King, and on the 
honour of the Mortemarts, as she says, the devil himself will help 

Several days later a fete brought the royal family together at Ver- 
sailles. The household of Monsieur and that of Madame added a note 
of domesticity to the festivities. Florimond, accompanied by his tutor, 
greeted his mother while she was talking to the King by the Latona 
Fountain. The boy was perfectly at ease with the great, for he knew 
his pleasant face framed in brown curls, and his innocent smile, could 
disarm them. He was dressed in a crimson velvet suit and black stock- 
ings with gold cloches. He bowed to the King and kissed his mother's 

‘So this is the deserter?' said the King kindly. ‘Do you like your new 
job, my boy?’ 

‘Sire, Monsieur's household is pleasant, but I prefer Versailles.' 

T admire your frankness. What do you miss most about Versailles?' 

‘Your Majesty's presence . . . and the fountains.' 

It was a happy choice. Nothing was dearer to the heart of Louis XIV 
than his fountains and the admiration they aroused. And flattery was 
not displeasing to him, even from the lips of a thirteen-year-old. 

‘You shall see them again. I will tend to it when you have learned not 
to tell lies.' 

‘Learned to keep still, perhaps,' Florimond said, 'but not to lie, 
because I never have lied.' 

Ang61ique and the Abb6 de Lesdigui&res, who was discreetly stand- 
ing a few steps away, showed signs of anxiety, for the King was frown- 
ing at the boy looking up at him so proudly. 

‘The boy does not look much like you, but he is obviously your child 
from the way he can cope with things when he wants to. Your relation- 
ship might be suspected if it were not for that chin of his that proclaims 


he is yours. Of the whole Court only you and he could look at the 
King that way/ 

‘I beg Your Majesty's pardon/ 

‘Why? You are not sorry for him or for yourself. But, what the devil! 
I don't know what to think of this business. They say truth is found 
in the mouths of babes, so why should I doubt it? I must question 
Duchesne. He was recommended to me by Madame de Montespan, but 
no man knows him well.' 

Angelique later recalled that at the very time the King was talking a 
lackey was kneeling to offer him a basket of fruit, not for his use -for 
the King never ate unless surrounded by his household officers - but for 
him to admire. The King praised the beauty of the big red, green and 
russet-skinned apples, the honey-coloured pears, the dawn-tinted 
peaches. Then they were taken away to be displayed on the long tables 
covered with such dazzlingly white cloths that they looked like arctic 
snowfields. The weather was just right for the kind of entertainment 
that had been arranged for the day, and the evening was so mild that 
the courtiers crowded on the lawns and terraces near the palace. It was 
then while she was looking at the golden cross cast over the fields by the 
sunset that Angelique felt a litde hand grab her skirt. 

‘Ma'm ! Ma'm Plessis ! ' 

She looked down to discover Naaman, the little negro page, in his 
peacock-blue jacket, turban and full trousers. Even in the dim light she 
could see the whites of his eyes rolling like billiard balls. 

‘Ma'm ! You boy dyin' ! You boy dyin' ! ' 

His accent was so thick she did not grasp his meaning. 

‘M'sieu Florimond! He vessick, vessick. Die !' 

When she heard Florimond’s name she grabbed the page and shook 

‘What's the matter with Florimond? Speak up ! ' 

‘Dunno, ma’m, dunno. E'yone sca'd 'bout he!' 

Angelique started off at a run for the North Terrace where she had 
seen the Abbe de Lesdiguieres a litde while before. He was still there 
by one of the big marble vases filled with geraniums, bearing up heroic- 
ally under the teasings of Madame de Gramont and Madame de 

‘Abbe,' she shouted, ‘where is Florimond?' 

‘He just went by, Madame. He told me he had to do something in 
the kitchen and would, be back presently. You know how he loves to 
run errands and make himself useful.' 

‘No, no!' said Naaman, shaking his turban with its long aigrettes. ‘ He 


say: “I get rid dat Florimond you know how. We be quiet now. He no 
tatde no mo\” ’ 

'Did you hear what he said? The boy will never talk any more?' 
Angelique screamed, shaking the Abbe. Tor the love of God, tell me 
where he went I ' 

T-I-he told me/ the Abbe stammered, 'the kitchens ... he was 
going by the Diana staircase to get there quicker . . / 

Naaman howled like a monkey caught in a trap and, stuck out his pink 
tongue towards the palace. He raised his hands with his fingers spread 

'De Di’na staircase? Oh, ve’y bad, ve’y bad!’ 

He broke away and ran as fast as his legs could carry him towards the 
palace. Angelique and the Abbe followed him. Her maternal instincts 
gave wings to her feet, and in spite of her heavy dress, her high-heeled 
slippers and the page who kept tripping over her train, she kept up with 
them and got there just as they started quizzing a guard in the vestibule 
of the South Wing apartment. 

'A little page dressed in red?' said the guard. 'Yes, I saw him go by 
just a minute ago. I was surprised because hardly anyone goes this way 
since the stairs were torn up for the enlargements/ 

'But . . . But . . / the Abbe stammered, 'beforehand . . . when we 
used to live here, the Diana staircase was often used. You could go up 
it to a balcony from which the South stairs led down to the kitchens/ 

'Not any more. They’ve tom down a whole wall to enlarge the wing. 
The Diana staircase is out of use. There is nothing but scaffolding at 
the top/ 

'Florimond did not know. Florimond did not know/ the Abbe kept 
repeating like an automaton. 

'You don’t mean the boy went up there?’ the guard exclaimed with 
an oath. 'I shouted at him to stop, but he was running too fast/ 

Already Naaman, the Abbe and Angelique were off again. The Diana 
staircase loomed before them into a darkness so deep they could only 
guess at the scaffolding at the top. The workmen had already left. It was 
towards that dark mass of unknown pitfalls that Florimond had run. 
Angelique started up, her legs dissolving under her. 

'Wait/ shouted the guard. 'Wait till I get my tinderbox. You’ll 
fall into the hole. There is a catwalk, but you have to know how to 
find it/ 

Angelique groped her way forward among the beams and the heaps 
of fallen plaster until the guard caught up with them. 

'Stop ! ’ he called. 'Look 1 9 


The flame of his tinderbox revealed only two feet away a yawning 
chasm two storeys deep. 

They’ve taken away the catwalk !’ the guard said. 

Angelique’s knees buckled under her as she leaned over the dark abyss 
that had swallowed up her child. 

‘Florimond I’ 

Her voice seemed to come from someone else. A draught blew the 
dank air of the cavernous gulf up into her face. The echo of the huge 
palace was her only answer. 


The guard tried to pierce the darkness with his feeble flame. 1 
can’t see a thing. If he fell, he must be still down there. We’ve got to get 
ropes and ladders and torches. Father, hold her so she won’t fall, too. 
Don’t stay there. We’ll go for help.’ 

Haggard with anxiety she staggered down the accursed stairs. 

They’ve killed my boy . . . My pride and joy . . . The little tattler 
will never talk again . . . Florimond didn’t know . . .’ 

The guard and the Abbe helped her to a bench in the dark vestibule. 
The two negro pages were howling like birds of ill omen. 

A maid carrying a six-branched candelabra appeared from a corridor 
running perpendicular to the courtyard. 

‘Are you ill, Madame? I have some smelling-salts with me.’ 

‘Her son has fallen off the scaffolding,’ the guard said. ‘Stay here with 
your candles. I’m going for help.’ 

Angelique stood up suddenly. ‘Listen!’ 

Her voice was enough to hush up the pages. Then from far off they 
could hear someone running, running in little red heels. Florimond 
suddenly emerged at full tilt from the same corridor as the maid. He 
would have passed without seeing them if the guard had not had the 
presence of mind to bar his way with his halberd. 

‘Let me go! Let me by !’ Florimond shouted. ‘I’m late bringing what 
Monsieur de Caraport sent me for in the kitchen.’ 

‘Stop, Florimond,’ shouted the Abb€ de Lesdigui&res, trying to hold 
him with his shaking hands. That staircase is dangerous. You’ll be 
killed if . . .’ 

He turned deathly white and sank on to the bench beside Angelique. 
For a moment it had seemed Florimond would dash to his death right 
before their eyes. But the guard had him tightly by the collar. 

Take it easy, you little monkey! Didn’t they just tell you it was 

‘But I’m late!’ 

34 ° 

‘You’re never late when you risk death. Take it easy, son, and thank 
the Blessed Virgin and your good angel.’ 

Still out of breath, Florimond explained what had happened. Just as 
he had got to where they now were he had run into the Due d’ Anjou, 
the King’s third and youngest child, only a year and a half old, all 
decked out in his gold lace and pearl cap and a lace collar and the 
great ribbon of Saint Louis pinned across his black velvet dress. He had 
escaped from his nurses and was wandering through the labyrinth of 
his palace with an apple in his hand like a little lost god. 

Always obliging, Florimond had picked up the royal baby and carried 
him back to his nursery quite a distance away in the apartments of the 
Dauphin and his sister. At the very time that Angelique was almost 
fainting as she leaned over the brink of the cavernous pit, Florimond 
was receiving the heartfelt thanks of the prince’s nurses and governesses. 
Then as they were blessing themselves for being spared, he was off like 
the wind to finish his errand. 

Angelique took him on her lap and hugged him to her. She could 
hardly make sense. 

‘If he had left me too, after Cantor, I would have died. Everything 
that held me to you, my love, would be gone. Oh, when will you come 
back to rescue me?’ 

She did not even know whom she was talking to, so hysterical was she. 
Never would she forget the mocking sweetness of that twilight at 
Versailles when the little black hands of a slave had tugged at her 
gown: ‘Ma’m, you boy dyin’ . . / 

She looked around for Naaman, but he had disappeared. Now that 
Master Florimond was safe and sound, he had gone back to his mistress, 
the ‘other one’. Doubtless he’d get a slap from her jewelled hand for 
being away so long. 

The maid had gone for some wine and glasses. Angelique forced her- 
self to drink a little, even though her throat was still tight from worry. 

‘You have a drink too, you others/ she said. ‘Drink, my good soldier. 
Without you and your tinderbox we might all be at the bottom of the 

The guard tossed off at one gulp the glass she gave him. ‘I won’t refuse, 
for I’m on the safe side too. What I don’t understand is how the cat- 
walk got taken away. I’ll have to tell my captain to report it to the 

Angelique slipped him and the maid three gold pieces each. Then, 
holding Florimond tightly by the hand, and followed by the Abbe and 
her page, she went to her own apartment. There she collapsed again. 


‘They wanted to kill my sonl’ was all she could think of. 

‘Florimond, who sent you on an errand to the kitchens?’ 

‘Monsieur de Caraport, an officer of the King’s Table Service. I know 
him well.’ 

Angelique put her hand to her damp forehead. ‘Will I ever know the 

In the next room she heard Rene de Lesdiguieres telling Swordthrust 
Malbrant about the incident. 

‘Did that Monsieur de Caraport tell you the Diana stairway was dan- 
gerous and that no one had used it for a long time?’ 


‘He must have warned you, but you weren’t listening.’ 

‘No, that’s not so,’ Florimond protested angrily. ‘He even said, “Go 
by the Diana staircase. You know the way. It’s the shortest way to the 
kitchens.” ’ 

I wish I knew if he’s fibbing to get out of it, Angelique thought. She 
could not get rid of the obsession that someone wanted to kill her son. 
‘The catwalk has been taken away . . What should she do? What was 
she to think? 

In her doubt and danger all she had to guide her were literal-minded 
servants, like the little negro and the dwarf. The whole pretty world 
of Versailles grovelling in the shadow of the great seemed to rise up 
before her to mutter: ‘Take care !’ She was tempted to trust that animal 

‘What must I do?’ she asked Malbrant, who was a man of some ex- 
perience even though he was only a squire. His white hair gave him an 
air of wisdom that must have taken him some time to acquire. He 
knitted his bushy eyebrows while he listened to the Abbe’s report. 

‘We ought to go back to Saint-Cloud, Madame. The boy has some 
protection in Monsieur’s establishment.’ 

Angelique smiled listlessly. ‘Who would have thought there would 
come a day . . . ? Well, that’s that. I think you’re right.’ 

‘The main thing is not to let him fall into Duchesne’s clutches ag ain. ’ 

‘You think that’s where the trouble came from?’ 

‘I’d stake my right hand on it. Let him wait. Some day I’ll catch him 
and skin him alive.’ 

Florimond was just beginning to understand that an attempt had been 
made on his life. He was proud as a peacock. 

‘It’s all because I told the King I didn’t lie about Duchesne. Picard, 
the lackey who was offering him the fruit, must have heard me and told 

34 * 

‘But it was Caraport who sent you to the kitchens/ 

‘Caraport obeys Duchesne. So that old Duchesne is scared of me!’ 

‘When will you ever learn you just can’t say things at random?’ Ange- 
lique demanded. Now after smothering him with kisses she was having 
difficulty to keep from slapping him. ‘Don’t you realise you could have 
broken every bone in your body if you had fallen off that scaffolding?’ 

‘I’d just be dead/ Florimond said philosophically. ‘Hell, that happens 
to everyone! I would have been with Cantor by now/ Then after a 
moment’s thought he said: ‘No, Cantor is not dead/ 

Ther£se and Javotte came in with the dress Angelique was to wear to 
the ball. 

‘Take him away/ Angelique told his tutor. ‘My nerves are so frazzled 
I don’t know what I’m doing. Watch over him and don’t leave his side 
for a minute/ 

The boy had hardly left with the Abbe and the squire than she 
wanted them back. 

‘I’m losing my mind. If I only knew for sure . . / 

She asked Therese to pour her a glass of brandy, but then she hesi- 
tated to drink it. What if it were poisoned? Nevertheless she drained it 
down and then things seemed clearer. 

‘If I knew for sure, then I would take action/ 

Barcarole’s hints came back to her. To get rid of Duchesne would be 
an easy matter, which Malbrant could take care of, or else some hired 
assassins. If she had one of Madame de Montespan’s servants on her 
side, she could at least know ahead of time what dangers threatened her. 
She thought of Desoeillet, whom Athenais trusted implicitly, but who 
was a venal enough girl she had once caught cheating at cards. 

Thanks to another glass of brandy she was able to dance and appear 
on the top of the wave, but much later after the Queen’s supper party, 
when she came back to her apartment, her sense of fear returned and 
became almost unbearable. It seemed to her that she was not alone in 
her room. She turned her head and almost shrieked with terror. Two 
black eyes were staring at her from behind a wardrobe, and a shrunken 
figure tiptoed out like a cat stalking a mouse. 


The dwarf was looking at her with an intense, almost crud expression 
on his face. 

‘The magician is here at Versailles with his partner,’ he whispered 
hoarsely. ‘Come on, sister, there are things you ought to know if you 
care about your life/ 

She followed him out of the secret door that Bontemps had shown her. 

343 ** 

Barcarole had no candle, but he could see in the dark like an animal 
Angelique kept stumbling and bumping into the walls of the narrow 
secret corridor. She had to stoop, and grope with her hands before her. 
She felt as if she were buried alive. 

‘Here we are/ Barcarole said. 

She heard his fingernails scratching on the wall in search of some- 

‘Sister, because you are one of us, I will show you something. But be 
careful. Whatever happens and whatever you hear or see, don’t make a 

‘You can depend on me/ 

‘Even if you should see a crime? A crime more horrible than any you 
could imagine?’ 

‘I won’t flinch/ 

‘If you do, it means death for you and me both/ 

There was an almost inaudible click, and then the frame of a door 
was outlined in light. Angelique fixed her eyes on the barely opened 
crack. At first she could not make anything out. Then little by little she 
distinguished the furnishings of a room in which three big wax candles 
were burning. Then she heard chanting like that in church. Shadows 
flitted about. Squatting on his heels not far from her was a man chant- 
ing in a singsong voice like a tipsy sacristan. He held a missal and was 
swaying backward and forward. Through the steam that rose from 
kettles bubbling on chafing dishes she saw a tall man advance towards 
them. Angelique felt an icy sweat drip down her neck. 

Never, she thought, have I seen a more terrifying human being. 

It was a priest, for he was wearing a sort of white chasuble embroidered 
with black fir-apples. In spite of his springy walk, he was of a great age 
which showed in a sort of inner corruption expressed by the colour of 
his face, which was like wine-lees, and in the purplish veins that webbed 
his features. He seemed a half-decomposed cadaver raised from a grave 
and daring to mingle with the living again. The hollow sonority of his 
voice cracked into a senile quaver that none the less gave him a weird 
kind of authority. One eye was completely gone, but he squinted out of 
the other with an intensity that seemed to miss nothing and could 
penetrate into the deepest secrets. 

Angelique recognised the witch Catherine Malvoisin among the 
women kneeling before him. Then she sensed what the scene before her 
meant. Half-swooning, she leaned against the wall. Barcarole grabbed 
her hand and squeezed it hard. 

‘Come now, don’t be afraid. They know you are here/ 


The Devil knows it, too/ she stammered through chattering teeth. 

The Devil is gone. See, the ceremony is almost over/ 

Another woman advanced and knelt. When she raised her veil, 
Angelique saw it was Madame de Montespan. She was so astounded 
she forgot her fear. How could the intelligent, haughty Athenais sully 
her beautiful body in this sinister travesty ! 

The priest held out a book to her. The Marquise laid her white hands 
on it. Her rings glittered. Like a halting schoolgirl, she repeated a prayer. 

In the name of Ashtoreth and Asmodeus, lords of friendship, I ask 
the friendship of the King and the Dauphin, and that I may keep it 
always. May the Queen be sterile. May the King leave her bed and 
board for me. May all my rivals perish . . / 

Angelique hardly recognised her, so distracted she looked, so en- 
thralled by her passion for meandering into this horrible adventure 
whose true meaning she had not grasped. 

The bluish vapours, tinged with the acrid odour of incense, thickened, 
then drifted into thin clouds that ravelled out over the celebrants, giving 
them the misty look of faces seen in a dream. The psalms-singer fell 
silent. He had closed his book and was scratching himself as he waited 
for the congregation to depart. 

Madame de Montespan asked him: Have you the shift?* 

That’s right, the shift!* said La Voisin rising. ‘We took great pains 
not to forget that, not after all you paid us. I know you’ll say it’s a 
lovely piece of work. I gave it to my daughter. Margot, bring the 
basket here/ 

A girl of about twelve appeared out of the haze and set down a 
basket from which she extracted with great care a nightgown of pink 
voile embroidered with silver threads. 

*Be careful not to hold it too long,’ her mother said. ‘Use the plane- 
tree leaves I brought/ 

Angelique stuffed her hand into her mouth. From her hiding-place 
she recognised one of her favourite nightgowns there in the hands of 
the girl. 

ThereseF someone called. 

Angelique’s maid appeared with the supercilious look on her swarthy 
face of a fool who has been raised to an important position. 

Take this, my girl/ said La Voisin, ‘and handle it with caution. Here, 
Fll give you some plane-tree leaves to protect yourself. Don't shut the 
basket, Margot, we’ve got to put you know what into it/ 

She went to the other end of the room and returned with a litde 
bundle of white linen on which stains of blood were raying out 


Angelique squeezed her eyelids together and clasped her hands 
tighdy against her breast to keep from crying out in horror: ‘Murderers 1 
Foul, monstrous murderers !’ She hadn’t the strength to look any more, 
but she could hear them bustling about in the sacristy blowing out the 
candles and clinking the silver vases together. 

The cracked, sepulchral voice of the priest said: ‘See that the watch- 
men don’t look into the basket.’ 

‘No danger/ cackled La Voisin. ‘After all the precautions I’ve taken, 
the guards will be bowing and scraping to me instead.’ 

Suddenly there was total silence. Angelique opened her eyes in dark- 
ness. Barcarole had shut the door. 

‘I think you know enough about that now, since you could hardly 
stand any more of it. Let’s be on our way before we run into that rat of 
a Bontemps. He snoops around all night long like a weasel.’ 

Back in Angelique’s apartment he stood a-tiptoe to reach the decanter 
of plum brandy. He poured, two glasses. 

‘Drink this. You’re positively green. You aren’t so used to it as I am. 
Lord, I worked for two years as a porter in La Voisin’s house. I know her 
well. I know all of them. She’s not a bad sort. She knows a lot, especially 
about chiromancy and physiognomy. She’s been studying them since 
she was nine years old. She told me the people who come to get their 
palms read inevitably say they want to get rid of someone. At first she 
used to answer they would die when God pleased, but then they would 
tell her that she wasn’t very clever, and so she changed her ways and 
got rich. Ha-ha!’ 

Barcarole smacked his lips and poured himself another glass of 

‘What worries me is that shift. It’s yours, eh?’ 


‘I thought so. Seeing your maid Ther£se at that witches’ sabbath put 
a bug in my ear. Sure as shooting, Montespan wants to get rid of you. 
She has paid La Voisin to make one of her special medicines for you. 
It wasn’t so long ago, I know, that she went to the Auvergne and to 
Normandy to learn the secrets of poisoning without a trace.’ 

‘Now I’ve been warned, I can escape the trap, and I know whom to 
ask for advice, too.’ She drank her second glass of brandy assiduously. 
‘Who was the priest?’ 

‘Abbe Guibourg from the parish of Saint-Marcel in Saint-Denis. He’s 
the one who sacrifices babies so that their blood can be drunk.’ 

‘Stop it!’ Angelique shouted with all her might. 

‘La Voisin has an oven at her house in which she must have burned 


up at least two thousand stillborn children or sacrificed ones/ 

‘Stop it! Be still T 

‘Nice people, aren’t they, Marquise, these high and mighty, and 
they have nice friends too, eh? The one chanting psalms near us was 
Lesage, the “great author” of sorcery. Madame de la Roche-Guyon is the 
godmother of his daughter. He-he-hel’ 

‘Shut up!’ Angelique shouted. She picked up a figurine from the 
mantel and hurled it at him. It broke against the wall. Barcarole 
turned a somersault and headed for the door still chuckling. She heard 
his ribald laughter disappear down the passageway. 

When Therfcse came to her room the next night, carrying the pink 
nightgown, Angelique was in a neglige at her dressing-table. She 
watched the maid in her mirror as she spread the shift carefully on the 
bed, fluffed up the pillows and turned down the covers for the night. 

‘Therese 1 ’ 

‘Madame Marquise?’ 

‘Therese, you know I am very pleased with your work . . 

The girl fidgeted with a silly smile on her face. ‘Madame la Marquise 
makes me very happy.’ 

‘I should like to make you a litde present. You deserve one. I am 
going to give you that nightgown you just brought me. It will just suit 
you. Take it.’ 

Angelique turned back to her mirror. There was a deathly hush in 
the room. She saw the reflection of the girl’s ashen face, and had proof 
enough. Suddenly she rose up in anger. 

‘Take it,’ she said in a terrible voice, her teeth set. ‘Take it!’ She 
marched over to the maid, her emerald eyes flashing like lightning. 
‘Don’t you want to take it? Well, I know why. Open your hands, you 
accursed wretch ! ’ 

Therese dropped the plane-tree leaves which she had crumpled up 
in her hands to hide them. 

‘The leaves! The plane-tree leaves!’ shouted Angelique, crushing 
them under her foot. 

She struck the girl with the full force of her arm, twice, three times, 
making her head wobble. 

‘Get out ! Go to your master, the Devil ! ’ 

With a dreadful groan Therese went out, her face buried in her arms. 

Angelique was trembling in every muscle. A few moments later 
Javotte brought in a tray of supper, and found her standing in the 


middle of the room staring about her unseeingly. Silently the girl set 
the pot of jam, the rolls and the pitcher of lemonade on the table. 

‘Javotte,’ Angelique said suddenly, ‘haven't you always loved David 

The girl blushed, and her soft grey eyes opened wide. 

‘It's been a long time since I’ve seen him, Madame.’ 

‘But you always were in love with him, weren’t you?’ 

‘Yes. But he probably wouldn’t even look at me now, Madame. He 
has become an important person with his restaurant and chocolate shop. 
They say he’s going to marry the daughter of a notary.’ 

‘Why does he have to do that, the fool? He needs a woman like you. 
You shall marry him.’ 

‘I am not rich enough for him, Madame.’ 

‘You shall be, Javotte. I will give you a dowry of four hundred livres 
a year, and a complete trousseau. You will have two dozen sheets, 
Cambrai underwear, damask tablecloths. You will be such a good 
match that he is going to take another look at your pink cheeks and 
your pretty nose. I know he always liked them.’ 

The maid looked at her in astonishment. ‘You will do all that for me, 

‘Why shouldn’t I? You fed my children when that nurse was letting 
them die of starvation.’ She put her arms around the graceful shoulders 
of the girl and felt the comforting warmth of her young body pressing 
against her own. 

‘Have you been a good girl, Javotte?’ 

‘I’ve done my best, Madame. I have prayed to the Blessed Virgin. But 
you know how it is here with all these fresh lackeys around, and the fine 
gentlemen making eyes at you. It’s been hard, sometimes. I’ve let them 
kiss me, for sure, but I never committed any sin.’ 

Angelique hugged her tighter, admiring the courage of this orphan at 
sea in the corruption of Versailles. 

‘Go now, my child. Tomorrow I am going back to Paris to see David 
Chaillou. Soon you will be married to him.’ 

‘Can I help Madame undress?’ Javotte asked, moving towards the 
pink nightgown. 

‘No, leave that alone. Run along now, I want to be alone.’ 

Javotte went out obedientiy, but not without a sidelong glance at 
the decanter of brandy to see how empty it might be. For some time 
the Marquise had been leaving very little in it. 



The very next day Angelique was returning in her coach from Paris to 
Saint-Germain. A cab had turned over in a ditch, and as Angelique 
drew near she recognised the girl waiting in the briars by the road- 
side as one of Madame de Montespan’s suite, Mademoiselle Desoeillet. 
She stopped and waved at her in a friendly way. 

‘Oh, Madame, what a mess I am in! ' the girl exclaimed. ‘Madame de 
Montespan sent me on an urgent errand, and shell be furious at my 
being late, and yet here Fve been stuck for a whole half-hour. That fool 
coachman didn't see a big rock in the middle of the road/ 

‘Were you going to Paris?' 

‘Yes . . . that is, half-way. I was to meet a person at the Bois-Sec cross- 
road who would give me a message for Madame de Montespan. Now 
Fm so late the person will probably have gone. Madame de Montespan 
will be terribly out of temper.' 

‘Get in. Ill have the horses turn around.' 

‘Madame, you are too kind.' 

‘I can't leave you in this fix. Fm glad to do Athenais a favour/ 

Mademoiselle Desoeillet gathered up her skirts and seated herself 
respectfully on the edge of the coach seat. She seemed worried. She 
was quite a pretty girl with that certain boldness Madame de Montespan 
managed somehow to instil in all her suite. Her attendants were known 
for their fine speech, their wit and their good taste. She trained the 
women in her own image - always at ease and always unscrupulous. 

Angelique watched the girl out of the comer of her eye. She had 
already thought of allying herself with one of her enemy's companions 
and especially with this same Desoeillet, whose weak character she had 
previously noted. She was a tricky, conscienceless girl, and it took a 
trained eye to catch her at her game; but Angelique's experiences in the 
Court of Miracles had taught her all the devices of cheats. Mademoiselle 
Desoeillet undoubtedly was familiar with them too. 

‘Ah, here we are!' said the girl, sticking her head out of the window 
of the coach. The Lord be praised, the urchin is still there!' 

Angelique ordered the coachman to stop. Out of the green forest 
screen a twelve-year-old girl who had been waiting in the shade of the 
trees advanced towards the coach. She was simply dressed and wore a 
white bonnet. She handed a little package to Mademoiselle Desoeillet, 
who whispered something to her and then took out her purse. Ange- 


lique could see the gold coins through its mesh, and calculated to 
the last ecu how much it contained. The total made her raise her 

'What can be in that package to make it cost so much? ’she asked, eye- 
ing it through her quizzing-glass as Mademoiselle Desceillet stowed it 
away in her big bag. She thought she detected a bottle. 

'We can go on now, Madame/ the girl said, visibly relieved to have 
accomplished her errand so easily. 

While the coach was turning around in the junction of the two roads, 
Angelique stole another look at the girl in the white bonnet who was 
disappearing again into the forest. 

‘Where have I seen that child before?’ she thought uneasily. 

She kept still for a moment while the coach was getting under way 
again for Saint-Germain. The more time went by the more she believed 
she could turn this occasion to her advantage. Suddenly she uttered a 
little cry. 

'What’s the matter, Madame?’ asked Mademoiselle Desoeillet. 

'Nothing at all, just a pin that came unfastened.’ 

'Can I help you?’ 

'No, thanks, it’s nothing.’ 

Angelique turned from red to pale and back again, as suddenly she 
remembered the face of the urchin girl. She had seen it before in the 
light of two candles on a sinister occasion. It was La Voisin’s daughter, 
the one who was carrying 'the basket’. 

'Can’t I help you, Madame?’ the girl insisted. 

'Well, yes, I suppose so, if you could help me unfasten my skirt.’ 

The girl did so, and Angelique thanked her. ‘You are very kind. You 
know, I have often admired your cleverness as a wardrobe mistress for 
my friend Athenais . . . and your patience, too.’ 

Mademoiselle smiled a reply. Angelique wondered whether she knew 
about her mistress’ evil plans. Who knows, perhaps she had right in her 
bag the poison that was destined for Madame du Plessis-Belliere, with 
whom she was now getting on so well. Fate has a wry sense of humour. 
What good did it do to laugh up one’s sleeve? But she would lose 
nothing by waiting 1 

'What I most admire about you is your skill at cards/ Angelique went 
on subtly. 'I was watching you last Monday when you beat the Due de 
Chaulnes. The poor man will never get over it. Where did you learn to 
cheat so cleverly?’ 

The sugary smile of Mademoiselle Desoeillet vanished. It was her 
rum to change from red to white and back again. 


‘What are you saying, Madame?’ she faltered. ‘Cheat? I? Why, it's 
impossible. I would never allow myself . . / 

‘Neither would I, my dear,’ said Angelique deliberately emphasising 
the tartness of her familiarity. 

She took her hand and turned it over to examine the ends of her 
fingers. ‘Your fingertips have such delicate skin I can guess what you 
use them for. I have seen you file them with a piece of whaleskin to 
make them sensitive enough to detect the markings on the cards you 
play with. They’re marked in such a way that only hands like yours 
can recognise them. The Due de Chaulnes’s tough hands would be hard 
put to find anything suspicious . . . unless someone called it to his 

The girl’s veneer cracked, and she became just a litde adventuress see- 
ing her castles in the air crumble. She knew that at Court the only 
thing no one took lighdy and that could lead to ruin was dishonesty 
at cards. The Due de Chaulnes was already put out at having lost 
over a thousand livres to such a young girl of humble origin, and 
would never endure the insult of having been cheated. If her tricks 
were uncovered, the guilty girl would be ignominiously banned from 
the Court. 

Angelique tried to keep her from getting on her knees on the floor 
of the coach to entreat her. 

‘Madame, you saw me. You could ruin me.’ 

‘Get up. What good would it do me to ruin you? You’re a clever litde 
cheat. It takes eyes like mine to spot you, and I think you can go on 
winning for some time to come . . . that is, of course, if I keep my 
eyes closed.’ 

The girl turned all the colours of the rainbow. ‘Madame, what can I 
do for you?’ 

She had dropped her ‘Mortemart’ accent, and her voice was now 
definitely common. Angelique looked out of the window coldly. The 
girl began to cry and told her her life story. She was the illegitimate 
daughter of a great nobleman whose name she did not know. An inter- 
mediary had seen to her education. Her mother had been a chamber- 
maid, and had wound up as the proprietress of a gambling-house, 
whence the other side of her education. Switched between the nuns of 
a boarding-school and the good training of a cardsharper, she had 
learned how to use her quick-wittedness, her prettiness and her scraps 
of refinement to get people of good society interested in her and willing 
to help her along. Athenais, who was a past master at recognising 
characters of her ilk, had attached her to her suite. Now she was at 


Court, but that had not wholly prevented her from relapsing into her 
old habits. There was card-playing . . . 

‘You know what happens when that catches up with you. I can’t afford 
to lose, I’m too poor. And every time I don’t cheat, I lose. I am crushed 
with debts now. What I won from the Due de Chaulnes the other day 
will just allow me to pay off enough to keep going, and I don’t dare go 
to Madame de Montespan. She has already paid for me too often, and 
she has told me that some day she is going to get tired of it.’ 

‘How much do you owe?’ 

She rolled up her eyes as she figured. Angelique tossed a purse into 
her lap. Mademoiselle Desceillet took it with trembling hands, and the 
colour came back into her cheeks. 

‘Madame,’ she repeated. ‘What can I do for you?’ 

Angelique nodded towards the bag. ‘Show me what you’ve got in 

After considerable hesitation Desceillet took out a dark-coloured 

‘Do you know whom this brew is intended for?’ Angelique asked after 
looking at it a moment. 

‘Madame, what do you mean?’ 

‘Maybe you don’t know, but I think your mistress has tried to poison 
me twice. What would keep her from trying a third time? And, what’s 
more, I recognised that little girl who sold it to you as the daughter of 
Malvoisin, the witch.’ 

Mademoiselle Desceillet looked around her in terror. At last she said 
she knew nothing about it. Madame de Montespan ordered her to go 
for medicine secretly compounded by sorceresses, but she didn’t know 

‘Well, you try to find out,’ said Angelique sharply, ‘for I am counting 
on you to warn me from now on of all dangers that lurk for me. Keep 
your ears open and keep me informed of all you can overhear about 

She kept twisting the phial in her fingers. Mademoiselle Desceillet put 
her hand out timidly to recover it. 

*Oh no, I think I’ll keep it.’ 

‘Madame, that’s impossible. What will my mistress say when I come 
back without it? She will blame La Voisin and whatever explanation 1 
make will end up being discredited. What if she finds out I was with 
you in your coach?’ 

‘That’s true. Still, I need some proof. You are going to help me,’ she 
said, digging her nails into the girl’s wrist ‘or, I promise you I will 

35 * 

destroy your life. You will be banished, ruined, despised by all, and it 
won’t take me long to do it/ 

The unfortunate Mademoiselle Desoeillet was looking for some way 
to excuse her disloyalty. 

‘I think I know something . . / 

‘Yes, what do you know?’ 

‘The medicine I was sent for is innocuous. As a matter of fact, it is 
intended for the King. Madame de Montespan also goes to La Voisin 
for philtres that will rekindle the flame of his love for her/ 

‘Which Duchesne pours into his goblet/ 

‘So you know everything, Madame? How frightful! Madame de 
Montespan told us she thought you were a witch. I heard her. She was 
in a towering rage. She told Duchesne: “Either that woman is a witch, 
or La Voisin has fooled us. Perhaps she has even betrayed us to her, if 
the other one has paid her more ...” I know she was talking about you. 
“It won’t last long, though/’ she said to Duchesne. It was this very morn- 
ing. She had sent us all away because she wanted to talk An great privacy, 
only . . / 

‘You were listening at the keyhole/ 

‘Yes, Madame/ 

‘What did you hear?’ 

‘At first I couldn’t make much out. Then litde by little my mistress 
kept raising her voice, she was so angry. It was then I heard her say: 
“Either that woman is a witch, or La Voisin has fooled us. All the 
attempts have failed. She must have been warned somehow. Who 
warned her? It’s got to stop. You go to La Voisin and tell her the joke 
has gone on long enough. I pay her a lot. Either she finds something 
that will work, or she will be the one to do the paying. I’ll write her 
myself. That will put the fear of God into her.” 

‘She sat down at her desk and wrote out a note she gave to Duchesne 
for La Voisin. “Show her this note. After she has read it, and is con- 
vinced how angry I am, bum the paper in the flame of a candle. Don’t 
leave until she has given you what we need. Wait, I have a handkerchief 
here that belongs to you know who. The page who picked it up gave it 
to me, thinking it was mine. I haven’t been able to get to any of her 
maids since Therese shot out of here as if the devil were chasing her. 
Also, she has very few servants and no followers. She’s a strange woman. 
I don’t know what the King sees in her, except her beauty, obviously.” 
She was talking about you, Madame/ 

‘So I gather. And when is Duchesne going to meet La Voisin?’ 



‘When? Where?* 

‘At midnight, at the Golden Horn tavern, a secluded place between 
the walls of Paris and Saint-Denis. La Voisin will walk there from her 
house in Villeneuve. It isn’t far.’ 

‘Well, you have been of use to me, my girl. I shall try to forget for a 
while that you have very sensitive fingertips. Here we are at Saint- 
Germain. We’re going to get out here, but I don’t want anyone to see 
us together. Put on a little powder and rouge, you look fearfully pale.’ 

Hastily Mademoiselle Desoeillet tried to repair her shattered appear- 
ance. Stammering her thanks and vowing loyalty, she jumped out of 
the coach and took to her heels. 

Angelique brooded as she watched her disappear like a pink butterfly 
in the springtime sunlight. Then she recovered herself and stuck her 
head out of the window of the coach. 

‘To Paris l’ she yelled at the coachman. 

When she had changed into a thick skirt and a corduroy jacket and 
tied up her hair in a black satin kerchief like a shop girl, she asked for 
Swordthrust Malbrant to come to her. She had already sent to Saint- 
Cloud to get him back, even at the risk of leaving Florimond to the Abb 6 
and the dubious protection of Monsieur’s Court. 

When he came to her apartment and saw only a simply dressed 
woman, he was astonished to hear her speak with the familiar tones of 
the Marquise du Plessis-Belliere. 

‘Malbrant, I want you to come along with me.’ 

‘You certainly are well disguised, Madame.’ 

‘Where I’m going it wouldn’t look well for me to show up in full 
regalia. I see you have your sword. Well, take a rapier and a pistol, too. 
Then go and find Flipot. Wait for me in the alley behind the hotel. 
I’ll come out to meet you by the door from the orangerie.’ 

‘As you say, Madame.’ 

A little later, riding behind Malbrant, Angelique arrived in the out- 
skirts of the suburb of Saint-Denis. Flipot had accompanied them on 
foot. They stopped in front of the dark inn of the Three Comrades. 

‘Leave your horse here, Swordthrust, and give the innkeeper an ecu 
to watch it. Otherwise we might never be able to get back. Horses dis- 
appear easily hereabouts.’ 

The squire did as she bade him, and followed her. He asked no ques- 
tions, just chewed the ends of his moustache and grumbled about the 
uneven paving blocks and the mud which still lingered in the cracks 


between the cobblestones of the dirty alleys in spite of the warm sun. 

Perhaps this district was not so strange to the old gladiator. During 
his salad days he might well have had an adventure or two around 

Not far from where they were was the red-painted wooden statue of 
the Father Eternal, the protector of beggars, in its niche on top of a 
pile of refuse. Flipot made his devotions joyously. He felt at home here. 

Deep in his improbable palace of mud and crumbling stone was the 
Grand Coesre, Wood-Bottom, enthroned as usual in his cripple’s bowl. 
His henchmen were numerous enough to take him about whenever he 
wanted to go, in a broken-down chair whose flowered upholstery and 
gilding were almost hidden under a layer of filth. But W T ood-Bottom 
seldom liked to stir. The darkness of his abode was so dense that even 
in full daylight the oil vigil lamps were kept burning. Wood-Bottom 
liked it that way. He loathed the light and he hated to be uncomfort- 
able. It was not easy to get to him. At least twenty times visitors would 
be stopped by gallows-birds asking what the hell they were doing there. 
Flipot gave the password. 

Finally Angelique stood in his presence. She had a bulging purse 
she intended to give him, but Wood-Bottom only looked at her scorn- 

‘Not too soon!’ he said. ‘Not too soon!’ 

‘You don’t seem very glad to see me, Wood-Bottom. Haven’t I always 
sent you what you needed? Haven’t the servants always brought you 
a roast suckling pig at New Year and a turkey and three barrels of 
wine for Mid-Lent?’ 

‘Servants ! Servants 1 Do I have to see those asses ! Do you think I 
have nothing better to do than peck at food and have soup sent me 
and chew on meat? I’ve got enough money to have a feast if I want 
one, just as I always had. But you don’t come here very often. Too 
busy being a wicked beauty, eh? There are plenty of girls who don’t 
know what respect is.’ 

The king of the beggars was sorely vexed. He accused Angelique less 
of thinking herself above him than of neglecting him. He could see 
nothing strange in a great Court lady not coming through twenty- 
inch-deep mud and filth and risking her life among the vagrants to see 
him. He wouldn’t have thought it strange to see the King of France’s 
coach stop before his oudandish hovel to pay him a visit Among 
kings, isn’t there . . . 

He was King of the Pennies and he knew the power of his fearful 


‘You could come to terms with La Reynie if he’d let you. What does 
he mean surrounding us with his policemen? Who wants police around? 
The police are all right for dumb rich people, because if you’re dumb 
you have to be honest. But we have to work hard. How else would we 
live? ?rison? The rope? Hang you, lock you up ! To the gallows with all 
thieves ! The public hospital for beggars ! What then? He wants to 
exterminate us, that damned La Reynie.’ 

He went on with a great string of grievances. The great days of the 
Court of Miracles had come to an end ever since La Reynie had become 
lieutenant of police and stuck lighted lanterns around Paris. 

‘Who’s that?’ he said at last, pointing to Malbrant with his pipe- 
stem. ‘Who’s that?’ 

‘A friend. You can trust him. He’s called Swordthrust. I need him for 
a little play I’m staging, but he can’t act it out all by himself. I need 
three or four more.’ 

‘Who know how to play a farce . . . with a sword or a club? They 
can be found.’ 

She told him her plan. A man had a rendezvous with the sorceress 
Malvoisin to bring her a letter in a tavern behind the ramparts of 
Villeneuve. They’d have to wait till he left his assignation with the 
witch. Then the bullies lurking outside could spring on him. . . 

‘And gluurrk!’ said Wood-Bottom, pointing to his throat. 

‘No, I don’t want any blood. No crime. I only want him to speak up 
and confess. Malbrant will take care of that.’ 

The squire came over to her, his grey eyes alert. ‘What’s the name 
of this man?’ 

‘Duchesne, the First Steward of the Wine Service. You know him.’ 

Malbrant beat his chest with satisfaction. ‘There’s one job I’ll be 
glad to do. I’ve wanted to say a few things to him for a long time now.’ 

‘That isn’t all. I need an accomplice in La Voisin’s house, someone 
to go with her to the meeting and be there when Duchesne gives her 
the letter. Someone especially quick with his hands so that he can get 
hold of the paper before it burns in the candle.’ 

‘That can be found,’ said Wood-Bottom. 

He had a fellow named Jack-o-Lantem called, a pale red-haired raga- 
muffin who had no equal for picking pockets and concealing his loot 
in his sleeves. But his red hair made him easily recognisable, and after a 
good many sojourns in the Chatelet prison and a few sessions on the 
rack which had left him with a twisted leg so that he limped, he found it 
hard to make a living. To snitch a letter right out from under the 
eyes and noses of a whole audience would be child’s play for him. 


'I need that letter/ Angelique said. Til pay its weight in gold/ 

The difficulty of meeting La Voisin and accompanying her to so 
secret a rendezvous was not insurmountable to the thieves. They had 
plenty of accomplices right in her very house. There was Picard, who 
worked as her lackey, and the Cossack, who was in love with her 
daughter. Through them Jack-o-Lantern could easily get himself hired 
to carry her torch or her bag. Even though she now moved in high 
society, the sorceress still kept one foot in the underworld. She knew 
how useful it was to have the Great Coesre as an ally. 

‘She mustn't catch on, is that it?' said Wood-Bottom, giving Ange- 
lique an understanding look. ‘We don't squeal here. If anyone does - 
death ! We have no use for stool-pigeons.' He heaved up his huge torso, 
encased in a military tunic with gold braid, and leaned on his hairy 
fists like a gorilla, which he rather resembled with his lumpy face and 
fierce look. ‘The power of the vagabonds is eternal,' he trumpeted. ‘Old 
La Reynie will never put an end to it. It will always spring to life again 
in the gutters.' 

Angelique wrapped her cape around her. She felt herself growing 
faint. In the light of the smoky oil lamps the face of the Great Coesre 
under his ostrich-plumed hat seemed to her to bear the brand of Cain. 
Great red faces were thronging around her, bearded faces, too, among 
which the wan face of Jack-o-Lantem stood out in contrast. 

She knew most of the bullies Wood-Bottom had summoned from 
among his bodyguards - Peony, the perpetual drunkard; Rat Poison, 
the Spaniard; several others whose names she had forgotten; and a 
newcomer called Death's Head, whose whole jaws were exposed, for 
the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament had cut off his lips for blas- 
phemy. Indeed, she was not trembling becasue of fear, for she had 
learned the rules of the game and could communicate with this ugly 

The underworld never pardoned a traitor, and never betrayed, its own 
people. On top or on the bottom the ‘brothers' and ‘sisters' who had 
demonstrated their loyalty and bound themselves to the society of 
Paris thieves by the oath of the vagabonds would always have access 
to the assistance of their fellow-members. If they were poor, a ketde 
of soup was always available to them; if they were powerful, swords 
would be drawn against their enemies. 

The bond was indestructible. Barcarole was proof of this. Wood- 
Bottom would not forsake him. No, Angelique was not afraid of them. 
Their wolfish cruelty terrified her less than that of certain far more 
refined persons she could name; their stinking sores revolted her less 


than the fine raiment that concealed loathsome villainy. But as she 
listened to the thundering voice of the Great Coesre, she remembered 
some dreadful experiences. Angelique was suffering the dizziness of 
one standing on the brink of a precipice from which she might fall to 
her doom, a feeling of being hurled from the sumptuous heights to 
which she had arrived into the bottomless despair of Hell. 

‘So one always has to come back here/ she thought 

It seemed to her that she would always carry with her in the folds 
of her cape the ineradicable stench of the misery of her past. All the 
perfumes of the world, all the diamonds in the world, all the glory of 
the King's favour would never expunge it. 

When Angelique returned home she sat down at her desk. Her visit 
to Saint-Denis had shown her more clearly than she had imagined 
what would be done that night in Villeneuve. All the details had been 
attended to, and there was nothing more to do but wait and try not 
to think. About ten o'clock Malbrant came to her. He wore a grey 
visor-mask and was wrapped in a cloak the colour of a stone wall. She 
spoke sofdy to him as if she might be overheard in the silence of her 
handsome room where once she had received Rakoczy's love. 

‘You know as well as I do what I want to get out of Duchesne. 
That’s why I chose you. Let him reveal the plans of the woman who 
sent him, and give the names of the people who are trying to do me 
harm . . . but above all, get the letter. Watch at the window of the 
inn. If he makes any sign of weakening before Jack-o-Lantern has 
a chance to filch it, burst in with your men. Also try to get the 
mixtures, the poisons La Voisin will give him.' 

She waited. 

Two hours after midnight she heard the distant creaking of the 
little secret door by which Malbrant had left the hotel, then his heavy 
quick military step on the flagstones of the vestibule. 

He entered and laid some objects on the table near her. She saw a 
handkerchief, a phial, a leather pouch, and a little square of paper - the 

Madame de Montespan's handwriting leaped out at her and a wild 
feeling of triumph thrilled her. The words of the letter were overpower- 
ingly dreadful: 

. . You have deceived me,’ wrote the noble Marquise in her flow- 
ing hand distinguished by its highly original spelling, for her educa- 
tion had been rather neglected. *The person is still alive and the King 


grows fonder of her every day. Your promises are not worth the 
money I have paid you - more than a thousand ecus up to now for 
medicines which bring neither love nor death. Just remember that 
I can ruin your reputation and turn the whole Court against you. 
Entrust what is necessary to my messenger. This time you had better 
be successful/ 

‘Wonderful 1 Wonderful !’ shouted Angelique. ‘Ha! So this time you 
had better be successful, yes, my fine Athenais. And in fact I will 
succeed. All your arms won’t be worth much against my hands/ 

At the bottom of the page there was a red spot that was turning 
brown. Angelique touched it and found it moist. She forgot her excite- 
ment and looked at her squire. 

‘What about Duchesne? What did you do with him? Where is 

Malbrant turned his head away. ‘If the current is strong, he must be 
almost out to sea by now/ 

‘Malbrant, what did you do? I told you I didn’t want any crime 

‘It’s always better to get rid of a corpse before it begins to stink/ 
he said, his eyes still lowered. Then suddenly he looked her full in the 
face. ‘Listen, Madame,’ he said, ‘listen to me. What I am about to say 
to you may seem strange coming from an old weather-beaten good- 
for-nothing like me. But I am fond of your son. All my life I have 
done nothing but stupid, useless things in so far as both myself and 
others were concerned. Weapons are all I know anything about be- 
cause of having handled them. But how to fill my purse I do not know. 
I was getting old, my body was wearing out, and Madame de Choisy, 
who knew my saintly aunt, my pious sister and my priestly brother, 
said to me: “Malbrant, you bad boy, what would you say to teaching 
two rich nobleman’s sons how to use a sword in exchange for good bed 
and board?” I said to myself, “Why not? Let your old scars heal a 
little, Malbrant.” And so I entered your service, Madame, and that of 
your children. Perhaps I have never had any children. It’s likely, but 
that’s not the point, I admit. With Florimond it was different. I doubt 
that you know him so well as I, Madame even if you are his mother. 
That boy was born with a sword in his hand. He handles one like 
Saint Michael himself. When an old hector like me sees that talent, 
that power, that gift - ah, well . . . Then it was that I began to think 
of how I had wasted my life and of how alone I am in the world, 
Madame. In that little boy I saw the son I perhaps have never 
had - whom I shall never know at any rate - and whom I shall never 


be able to teach to wield a sword. There are things like that you 
don’t know you have inside you, but they’re the ones that make you 
want to live. That Duchesne wanted to kill Florimond.’ 

Ang£Lique shut her eyes. She felt faint. 

‘Up to now,’ the squire went on, no could say for sure. But now 
it is certain. He confessed, it, blurted it out when we held his feet in the 
fire: “Yes, I did want to get rid of that little louse,” he cried. “He’s ruined 
me in the eyes of the King by arousing his suspicions . . . he’s spoiled 
all my hopes. Madame de Montespan has threatened to have me fired 
for not being subder.” ’ 

‘So it’s true that he put powders in the King’s wine?’ 

‘The favourite instructed him to. It’s all true. And he threatened to 
kill Florimond if the boy betrayed him. He put the poison in the 
sherbet that was intended for you. The Montespan went to La Voisin 
for a means of killing you. Caraport, one of the King’s stewards, was 
their accomplice. It was he who sent the child on an errand to the 
kitchens by way of the scaffolding. “Scaffoldings ninety feet high,” as I 
yelled at him, “ninety feet up from the stone pavement in the dark! 
Well, it’s your turn to fall down them now, you beast who would take 
the life of a child !” ’ 

Malbrant stopped and wiped his face. He stared at Angelique who 
was looking straight ahead of her. 

1 had to get rid of that stinking carrion,* he repeated in a low 
voice. ‘He wasn’t very pretty to look at. What good would it have done 
to leave him alive? Just one more enemy for you. There are enough 
as it is, I think. When you start something like this, Madame, you’ve 
got to see it through to the bitter end.’ 

‘I know.’ 

‘The others agreed with me. There was no other way to finish the 
job. My good companions did their work well. Jack-o-Lantern made 
a deal with La Voisin’s lackey to get himself the job of carrying her 
torch. He pretended to be deaf and dumb. She kept him with her 
during the rendezvous. Everything went as planned. She said she did 
not want to go to the meeting-place alone. She wanted a deaf and 
dumb fellow who could wield a knife. So Jack-o-Lantern showed up and 
she took him along. We kept watch outside. Once I saw things begin 
to go wrong between La Voisin and Duchesne. They couldn’t find the 
letter. Then the fun began. La Voisin stalked out without demanding 
her payment. Jack-o-Lantem pretended to defend her for the sake of 
the farce. Then we got busy with the man. It was not easy -he was 
tough to handle. But finally we got him down and got the handkerchief, 


the bottle, die little bag in which the magic powders are, I think, and 
lastly the secrets I just told you/ 


Angelique opened a drawer of her desk and took out a purse of gold 

This is for you, Malbrant. You did a good job/ 

The squire stowed it away immediately. T never say no to money. 
Thank you, Madame. But believe me when I say that some day I will 
do it for nothing. The little Abbe knows that. We asked each other 
what we should do. You are all alone, aren't you? You were right to 
confide in me/ 

Angelique's head fell. The time had come for buying accomplices 
and paying for silence, and it would last the rest of her life. Between 
her and this adventurer whom she knew so little there would always be 
the screams of the murdered Duchesne, the plop of a body thrown into 
the Seine. 

*My silence? I have kept it for people who deserved it less than you. 
Even the end of a botde doesn't remind me of what I want to forget/ 

1 thank you, Malbrant. Tomorrow I will send you back to Saint-Denis 
with the money I agreed to pay. Then you will go to Saint-Cloud. I 
want Florimond under your protection. Now you may leave. Sleep 

He bowed like a musketeer, as he well knew how to do. But before 
shutting the door behind him he looked back at her with mingled 
fear and admiration. Not that she frightened him. Quite the contrary. 
He was afraid for her. He was afraid to see her weaken. There are some 
persons who could walk on heaps of corpses without turning a hair. He 
knew plenty like that. The other woman', for example. But this one 
was different, well though she knew how to fight. 


The King had not yet come out of Mass when Angelique mingled 
with the throng of courtiers awaiting Their Majesties in the Salon of 
Mercury at Versailles, where they had arrived the night before. 

She hoped her absence had not been noticed in the change of resi- 
dence from Saint-Germain to Versailles. She got there at an early hour 
after concealing with carefully applied make-up the ravages of the 
previous night's fatigue and mental anguish. She was beginning to 
acquire the remarkable resilience of all sophisticates, the ability to* 


change roles like actors without any effort, and to appear after a sleep- 
less night and four hours of coach travel with a dazzling smile and a 
fresh complexion. She bowed to people to right and left, and inquired 
after many. Thus she learned the details of the full-dress expedition 
into Flanders to see Madame off on her visit to her brother Charles II 
of England. Several of the gossips were surprised to discover that 
Angelique had not gone, too. They said that Madame would return 
soon and that her negotiations were off to a good start. The amply- 
proportioned Mademoiselle de Querouaille, whom the Princess had 
taken in her suite, would not be the least effectual of her means to 
convince the young Charles II that he should avoid the triple alliance 
and extend a friendly hand to his brother-in-law Louis XIV. There was 
considerable laughter about whether Mademoiselle de Querouaille’s 
fine features would surmount her plump figure in the eyes of the 
English. But Madame knew her brother’s taste in women well. 
Apparently he preferred quantity to quality. 

The Stewards of the King’s Table passed by, carrying silver-gilt pots 
of jams and dishes of fresh fruit for what was called the King’s hunt- 
ing snack. Angelique heard one of them remark on the absence of 
Duchesne. She drifted away from the groups of courtiers and leaned on 
the window-sill of the Great Hall. It was a beautiful day. The lawns 
showed the effects of the thousand rakes the gardeners had applied to 
their surface. She recalled the first morning she had ever seen them, 
with Barcarole beside her, when day was breaking over Versailles and 
there was only one person in the world a menace to her. 

Tossing her head, and with a stately gait, she passed through the 
Great Hall towards the South Wing. After opening several doors she 
arrived at an apartment that also looked out on the terraces. 

Madame de Montespan was at the dressing-table in her gorgeous 
boudoir. Her ladies-in-waiting were gabbling around her, but they fell 
silent when they saw Angelique. 

'Good morning, Athenals dear, Angelique said gaily. 

The favourite wheeled around on her embroidered silk stool. 'Oh, 
yes,’ she said. 'What can I do for you, my dear?’ 

There was a time when each had tried to surpass the other in the 
farce of their armed truce. Now neither took the trouble to pretend, 
even in public. Athenals de Montespan’s blue eyes surveyed her rival. 
There was not the shadow of a doubt in her mind that this sudden 
affability was a disguise for something. 

Angelique spread her skirts on a little sofa upholstered in the same 
material as the dressing-table stool and the chairs. The furniture was 


indeed lovely, but its blue tints clashed with the greenish gold of the 
walls. She would have to have that changed. 

*1 have some interesting news for you/ 


Mademoiselle Desoeillet turned pale. The big tortoise-shell comb set 
with pearls that she was fixing in her mistress's hair shook in her hands. 
The other girls looked at her wonderingly. Madame de Montespan 
turned back to her looking-glass. 

'Well, we are waiting,' she said coldly. 

'There are too many people here. Only you need to hear this.’ 

‘You want me to send my ladies away? That's impossible.' 

'Perhaps. Let's say it would be preferable.' 

Madame de Montespan wheeled around. She saw in Angelique’s face 
something she had never expected to find there. She hesitated. 

‘I'm not made up yet, and my hair isn't done. The King will be 
waiting for me to accompany him on his walk through the gardens.' 

‘Don't worry. I can look after your hair and you can be putting on 
your powder meanwhile,' Angelique said. 

She moved behind Madame de Montespan and skilfully attacked her 
heavy braids of hair the colour of ripe wheat. 

'I'm going to do it in Binet's latest style. It will suit you to a T. 
Give me that, my child,' she said to Mademoiselle Desoeillet, as she 
took the comb from her hands. 

Athenais dismissed her suite. 'Run along, ladies!' 

Angelique slowly undid the braids and spread out like a cape the 
long, delicately perfumed locks, separated them into two with the comb, 
and then with a sure touch twisted one hank around the crown of 
Ath6nais's head. What a wonderful effect it had ! Her own hair seemed 
dark next to the pure gold of her rival's. Lucifer before his fall must 
have had hair like this. 

'Please hand me a couple of pins.' 

In the looking-glass Madame de Montespan was keeping an eye on 
her rival. Angelique was still lovelier and more dangerously so, because 
her beauty was so out of the ordinary. Her smooth durable complexion 
withstood those enemies of pink-and-whiteness - pimples and broken 
veins. She always seemed to be powdered, so clear was her skin, and 
her litde nose showed none of the effects of wine tippling and rich food. 
Her complexion set off her green eyes the way gold mountings add 
to the lustre of precious stones. Her hair, perhaps less blond than 
Madame de Montespan's, was redeemed by its natural waviness and it& 
rich glossy tints. 

‘No man could ever look at that hair and not want to stroke it/ 
Athenais had once said in a fit of jealousy. 

Angelique did not take her eyes off her enemy, whose looks she 
could see in the mirror. She bent to whisper in her ear: ‘Duchesne died 
last night at an assassin’s hand/ 

With a certain admiration she noted that Madame de Montespan 
hardly moved a muscle, merely went on looking almost insolendy calm. 

‘Hmm/ she said, ‘no one has told me yet/ 

‘No one knows it yet, except me. Would you like to hear how it hap- 

She kept on separating the glossy locks and rolling them one by 
one over an ivory rod. 

‘He was coming out of Malvoisin’s house. He had brought her a 
message, and in return had got from her a little sack and a phial. No 
one will ever know that . . . unless you let it out. Pay attention, my 
dear, you are getting your rouge on crooked/ 

‘You swine!’ said Montespan between her teeth. ‘You whore! You 
filth! How dare . . . how dare you do that!’ 

‘What about you?’ 

Angelique tossed the comb and the ivory rod on to the dressing-table. 
Her hands seized the smooth, white, rather fleshy shoulders that the 
King so loved to kiss, and dug her nails into them as her anger 

‘What didn’t you dare! You wanted to kill my son/ 

They were both breathing hard as their eyes met in the mirror. 

‘You wanted me to die a horrible, shameful death. You called down 
on my head all the curses of the Devil himself. But the Devil has turned 
on you now. Listen carefully. Duchesne is dead. He will never blab. 
No one need ever know where he went last night and what he was after 
and who wrote the letter he delivered to La Voisin/ 

Madame de Montespan suddenly weakened. ‘The letter!’ she said in 
a different voice. ‘Didn’t he burn the letter?’ 

‘No 1’ She recited softly: ‘The person is still alive and the King grows 
fonder of her every day. Your promises are not worth the money I 
have paid you - more than a thousand ecus up to now for medicines 
which bring neither love nor death . . / 

Athenais had turned white, but she reacted with the pitiless energy 
that had always kept her going. She tore away from Angelique’s grip 

‘Let me go, you Gorgon ! You’re killing me !’ 

Angelique took up the comb again, while Madame de Montespan 


reached for a puff and dabbed clouds of powder over her bruised 

'What do I have to do to get the letter back from you?’ 

1 will never give it to you/ said Angelique. 'Do you think Fm that 
much of a fool? That letter and the baubles I described to you are in 
the hands of an agent of the law. Forgive me if I don't tell you his 
name. But remember he often has an opportunity to get to the King. 
Now, if you'll please hand me those pearl-headed hairpins, I'll fix your 

Madame de Montespan gave them to her. 

'On the day I die/ Angelique continued, 'the sad news of the sudden 
and inexplicable end of Madame du Plessis-Belliere will no sooner 
have reached the ears of that agent than he will have gone to the 
King and shown him the objects and the letter I have given into his 
safekeeping. I don’t imagine His Majesty will have any trouble recog- 
nising your handwriting and your faultless spelling/ 

The favourite was making no more attempt to dissemble. She 
seemed to be choking, for her chest was heaving with spasms. Her 
feverish hands kept opening boxes and bottles as she streaked make-up 
over her forehead and cheeks and eyelids. 

'What if I don't take your bribe?' she exclaimed suddenly. 'What 
if I’d risk everything to see you dead?’ She stood up, clenching her 
fists, almost breathing flames of hatred. ‘Dead!’ she repeated. 'That’s 
the only thing I care about - to see you dead ! If you live, you will take 
the King away from me. I know that. Or else the King will take you. 
It amounts to the same thing. He craves you desperately. Your 
coquettish refusals of his desires work in his blood and rob him of 
reason. I don't matter any more. Soon he will come to hate me, be- 
cause he wants to see you in my place, here, in this apartment he 
had made for me. Since my fall is certain whether you are dead or 
alive, I at least want you dead, dead, dead!' 

Angelique heard her out impassively. 'There's a certain difference 
between a temporary fall from favour which would at least make the 
King show you some regard and which would leave you -who 
knows? - the hope of sometime regaining his affection, and the horror 
he would feel towards you when he was informed of your crimes, not 
to mention the exile or the imprisonment to which he would condemn 
you for the rest of your days. I'm sure a Mortemart knows the right 
choice to make between those alternatives/ 

Athenais was wringing her hands. Her display of rage and her im- 
potency had made her appear rather naive. 'The hope of regaining 


his affections/ she echoed. ‘No. If you ever win him, it will be for 
life. I know that. You know him as well as I do. I was master of his 
senses, but you are master of his heart. And, believe me, it’s some- 
thing to be master of the heart of a man who doesn’t hesitate to 
admit it.’ 

She looked at her rival as if she were seeing her for the first time, 
perceiving in her calm, dangerous beauty a weapon she had not sus- 
pected before. 

‘I am not strong enough/ she said. 

Angelique shrugged her shoulders. Don’t play the victim, Athenais. 
It’s not the part for you. Just sit down again and let me finish your 

‘Don’t touch me!’ 

TBut this hair-style is quite becoming to you, Athenais. It would 
be a pity to leave it done up on one side and hanging loose on the 

In desperation Athenais handed her the comb as she would to a 
servant. ‘All right, finish. And be quick about it I’ 

Angelique twisted a long golden lock around her finger, and arranged 
it so that it trailed gracefully down her pearly neck. As she glanced 
into the mirror to see how it looked, she met the stormy eyes of her 
enemy. She had won, but for how long? 

‘Leave me the King/ said Athenais suddenly. ‘Leave me the King. 
You do not love him.’ 

‘Do you?’ 

‘He belongs to me. I was made to be Queen.’ 

Angelique rolled up two more locks and pinned them over her temples 
like wood shavings. Binet could not have done better. 

‘My dear Athenais/ she said as she finished, it’s no use for you to 
appeal to my finer feelings, for I have none so far as you are concerned. 
I will make a bargain with you. Either you leave me alone and stop 
plotting against my life, in which case you can trust me to say nothing 
about your relations with sorceresses and demons; or else you can keep 
on with your vindictiveness and continue to store up bolts of light- 
ning that will be unleashed upon you and annihilate you. Don’t think 
you can get around these facts by trying to do me harm in some other 
way like undermining my reputation, or ruining my credit, or harassing 
me with little underhand attacks to make my life miserable. I shall 
always know where these are coming from, and I won’t have to wait 
for death to relieve me of you. You say the King loves me. Just think 
what his wrath will be when he finds out you tried to get rid of me. 


The agent of the law who has my secrets in his keeping tested in person 
the nightdress you sent me. He will bear witness before the King to 
the injuries you wanted to do me. One more bit of advice, my dear. 
Your hair looks lovely, but your make-up is askew. It’s in ruins. If I 
were you. I’d start all over again/ 

As soon as Angelique left, Madame de Montespan’s girls trooped 
back solicitously, and formed a circle about their mistress’s dressing- 

'Madame, you are crying!’ 

'Yes, you fools. Can’t you see how dreadful my make-up looks?’ 

Stifling her sobs, she looked in the mirror at her bleary face, tear- 
streaked with red and white and black. She heaved a deep sigh. 'She’s 
right, the swine 1’ she muttered. 'It is ruin. I’d better start all over 

No one missed the new look on Madame du Plessis-Belliere’s face 
as she appeared for the King’s walk through the gardens. She was 
radiant, and the way she carried her head was almost intimidating. 
Everyone began to feel as Madame de Montespan had recently felt. 
It was as if they had been deceived. The little Marquise had indeed 
quite a collection of masks. Those who had thought she was being 
very cautious about remaining in favour now could see that she was 
not going to be another La Valliere. Those who were betting that 
Madame de Montespan would get rid of 'the hick’ now felt their con- 
fidence falter in the face of the haughty looks she gave them and the 
way she smiled at the King. The King’s attitude sealed their defeat. He 
made no pretence at having eyes for anyone but her. 

Madame de Montespan was absent. No one took exception to it, but 
found it quite natural for Angelique to be walking at the King’s side 
down the path to the grove and colonnade of Minerva, and then on 
their return to the palace via the Fountain Walk. 

The King called her into his conference chamber, as he often did 
when he needed her advice on some matter of trade he was discussing 
with his ministers. This time she noticed that the room was empty. As 
soon as the door closed behind them he took her in his arms. 

'My beauty,’ he said, 'I can’t go on like this ! When will you stop tor- 
turing me? This morning you had me completely in your power. I 
could see nothing but you. You were my sun, my star I could never 
reach, the cool spring from which I could not drink. Your glory suffused 
me and your perfume was all the air I breathed, and yet I could not lay 


my hand on you. Why? Why so cruel?’ He was burning with desire he 
could no longer control. ‘Don’t think you can go on playing with me 
like this much longer. You’ll have to end by yielding to me, even if I 
have to force you to/ 

His steel-like muscles were bruising her as they flattened her against 
his stone-hard chest. 

‘You might make me your enemy/ she said. 

‘I am not so sure of that. I was wrong to think your heart would 
awaken to me if I were patient. You are not ruled by your emotions. 
You want to know your master before you obey his orders. Only after he 
has won you over will you be loyal to him. Only when I have penetrated 
your flesh will I have penetrated your heart/ He added plaintively: 
‘Ah, how the secrets of your body torment me!’ 

Angelique felt dizzy from her head to her toes. ‘I can’t go on 
like this either/ she said to herself, sinking into a kind of ex- 

‘When you are mine/ the King was saying, ‘when I have won you 
either by your consent or by force, I know you will never leave me, for 
we two were made for each other and to rule the world, even as 
Adam and Eve were/ 

‘So Madame de Montespan said with a certain assurance/ Angelique 
remarked with a thin smile. 

‘Madame de Montespan ! What is she thinking of? What hold does 
she have on me? Does she think I am blind? That I’m not aware of 
her wicked heart, her concierge-like spying, her boundless tiresome 
pride? I know her for what she is -beautiful and sometimes divert- 
ing. Does her presence scare you? I tell you I would sweep out of your 
way anyone you did not like. If you asked me now to get rid of Madame 
de Montespan, she would be out of the palace by tomorrow/ 

Angelique pretended to take this humorously. ‘All this display of 
power frightens me a little, Sire/ 

‘You have nothing to fear. I would give you my sceptre. I know it would 
be in worthy hands. You see, again you have succeeded in checking my 
violence and again I trust in your wisdom to choose the day and the 
hour when you will favour me. I will let time take care of overcoming 
your apprehensions so far as I am concerned. Now, don’t you thi nk we 
could arrive at some understanding between us?’ 

His voice was supplicating, and he kept holding her hands in his. 

‘Yes, I think so. Sire/ 

‘Then some day, my beauty, we will set sail for Cythera - the isle of 
love . . . Some day . . . promise me/ 


Between his kisses she murmured, T promise/ 

Some day she would kneel before him and say, ‘Here lam../ And 
she would lay her forehead in his royal hands. She knew that she was 
inescapably set on that course towards that time. Now she had got rid 
of the dangers that threatened her life, the attainment of this love 
weighed on her and inspired her with alternate fear and triumph. 
Would it be tomorrow? Or later? The answer was hers to make, and yet 
she was leaving it to fate. 


Angelique spent three days in Paris going over some business with 
Colbert. She was coming back to her house after being with him till 
quite late one evening. In front of the Hotel du Beautreillis was the 
outline of a beggar limping along in the bluish darkness of the moon- 
less June night. As she approached the door she saw it was Stale 

‘Go to Saint-Cloud ! Go to Saint-Cloud ! ’ he said in his hoarse voice. 

She tried to open her door but he prevented her. 

‘Go to Saint-Cloud, I tell you. Something’s going on there. Fve just 
come from there in a wine cart. There’s an entertainment there tonight. 
So go on . . / 

1 wasn’t invited to Saint-Cloud, Stale Bread/ 

‘Someone else is there who wasn’t invited either. . . . Death. . . . 
And it is in his honour the party is being given. Go see for your- 

Angelique suddenly thought of Florimond. Her blood ran cold. 

‘What’s going on? What do you know?’ 

But the old vagabond had moved off, grumbling. 

Angelique shrieked to the coachman to take her to Saint-Cloud. She 
had a new coachman now, who had worked for the Duchesse de 
Chevreuse and was more philosophical than his predecessor had been. 
He merely remarked that to travel through the woods at that hour of 
the night was to invite danger. Without getting out of the coach she 
had three of her footmen awakened and also Roger, her steward. They 
armed themselves and mounted their horses to protect the coach which 
was turning in the direction of the Saint-Honore gate. 

The tree toads sounded like sleigh-bells jingling in the darkness of 
the park. Angelique’s nerves were jumpy anyway, and the sound 
aggravated them. She put her hands over her ears to shut it out. As 


they rounded a bend in the avenue the country house of Monsieur 
d’Orleans loomed before diem, its windows winking as the torches 
passed behind them. There were plenty of coaches parked on the 
terrace, and the great gates were wide open. 

Something was indeed going on, but it was no fete. 

Trembling with anxiety, she jumped out of the coach and ran to the 
entrance. There was no page there to take her cloak or ask what she 
wanted at this late hour. But the foyer was full of confused people 
rushing to and fro and talking in whispers. Angelique caught sight 
of Madame Gordon-Huntly. 

‘What’s going on?’ she called to her. 

The Scotswoman made a vague, distracted gesture. ‘Madame is 
dead.’ She disappeared behind a tapestry. 

Angelique grabbed a lackey by the arm. ‘Madame dead? It’s im- 
possible. She was in perfect health yesterday. I saw her dancing at 

‘The same today. At four o’clock Her Highness was laughing and 
chatting merrily. Then she drank a cup of coffee and immediately was 
seized with pains/ 

Madame Desbordes, one of the Princess’s ladies in waiting, was 
stretched out on a sofa sniffing smelling-salts. She had just been revived 
from a swoon. 

‘It’s the sixth time since this afternoon, the poor woman,’ said 
Madame de Gamaches. 

‘But what is the matter? Did she drink the same cup of coffee?’ 

‘No, but she made it. She was accused of causing the terrible 

Madame Desbordes was gradually recovering her senses. She began 
to scream hysterically. 

‘Get control of yourself,’ Madame de Gamaches begged her, ‘you 
aren’t guilty of anything. Try to remember if you boiled the water. I 
brought it in, and Madame Gordon gave it to her in her own special 

But the pathetic lady in waiting could not seem to understand. She 
kept wailing, ‘Madame is dead! Madame is dead!’ 

‘We all know that,’ said Angelique. ‘Did Madame see a doctor?* 

‘All of them/ brayed Madame Desbordes. ‘The King sent his own. 
They are all here. Everybody is here. Mademoiselle is here. Monsieur 
is here. The Queen . . / 

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake!’ Madame de Gamaches interrupted her. She, 
too, was getting hysterical. 

37 ° 

While they were trying to extract some information, Monsieur him 
self appeared out of Madame’s apartments, accompanied by Made- 
moiselle de Montpensier. 

‘Cousin/ she was saying vigorously, ‘you must remember that 
Madame is dying. Talk to her about God . . / 

‘Her confessor is with her/ Philippe d’Orleans protested gently. 

He casually adjusted the folds of his jabot. Of all those present he 
certainly appeared the least upset, but he was at the mercy of the 
Grande Mademoiselle’s insistence, and had to listen to her. She shiuggecl 
her shoulders in fury. 

‘Her confessor 1 Fd be in a sorry state if I had to appear before God 
with no preparation but that nobody’s. Her confessor indeed! You had 
to send him around in a coach so that the public could see she had one 
His only recommendation is that he has one of the handsomest beards 
in the country, that’s all. But when death . . . Have you ever thought 
of what it means to die, Cousin?’ 

Monsieur was contemplating his fingernails. He sighed listlessly. 

‘Well, you do know your time will come, too/ exclaimed Mademoiselle, 
bursting into sobs. ‘Then will be the time for you to study your finger- 
nails. Ah, my poor darling/ she said as she caught sight of Angelique, 
and beckoned her to her. 

She sank on to a bench. ‘If you could only see this affecting sight ! 
All these people buzzing around Madame, chattering and prating as 
if they were at a play. Her confessor doesn’t know how to do more than 
stroke his beard and mumble platitudes . . / 

‘Calm yourself, Cousin/ said Philippe d’Orleans sympathetically 
‘Let’s see now, whom can we find to be with Madame during her Iasi 
hours who would look well in the Gazette? Ah, I have it-Fatbei 
Bossuet. Madame sometimes liked to talk with him, and he is the 
Dauphin’s religious adviser. I’ll send for him/ 

He gave orders accordingly. 

‘But there’s no time to lose. Who knows whether Madame will still 
be alive by the time Monsieur Bossuet gets here? Isn’t there anyone here 
at Saint-Cloud?’ 

TMy goodness, can’t you be satisfied?’ 

One of the Maids of Honour recommended Father Feuillet, a canon 
of Saint-Cloud, who had a certain reputation. 

And an evil character, too/ the King’s brother snapped. ‘Call him if 
you want, but I shall have none of him. I have already said my farewells 
to Madame/ 

He pirouetted on his high heels and went towards the staircase with 


his gentlemen attendants. Florimond, who was among them, saw his 
mother and ran over to kiss her hand. 

It’s a sorry business, isn’t it, Mother?’ he said. ‘Madame was 

‘For the love of heaven, Florimond, stop talking about poison/ 

‘But she certainly was poisoned. I know she was. Everyone says so 
and I was there myself. Monsieur wanted to go to Paris, and we had 
gone down into the courtyard with him. Just then Madame de 
Mecklenberg arrived. Monsieur greeted her and went with her to see 
Madame, who also came to meet her. It was just then Madame Gordon 
gave her the cup of iced coffee she always had that time of day. As 
soon as she drank it, she put her hand to her side and moaned: “Ah, 
what a pain in my side! Oh, it’s terrible! I can’t stand it!” Her cheeks 
had been pink, but they turned deathly white. “Help me away,” she 
said. “I can’t stand up any longer.” She was walking all bent over, i 
saw her myself/ 

‘The page is right/ confirmed one of the younger of Madame’s suite. 
‘As soon as Madame got into bed, she told us she was sure she had been 
poisoned and asked for an antidote. Monsieur’s First Valet of the Bed- 
chamber brought her some snake oil, but her pains were so great it 
only seemed to increase them. It must have been some terrible new 

The Grande Mademoiselle butted in. ‘Don’t talk so foolishly. Who 
indeed would have wanted to poison a lovely woman like Madame? She 
had no enemies/ 

They shut up, but continued no less to think about it, including 
Mademoiselle de Montpensier. One name was on everyone’s lips - that 
of Madame’s own husband, or else of his exiled favourite. Mademoiselle 
went to greet Father Feuillet, who had just been announced. 

‘If it hadn’t been for me, Father, the poor Princess would have gone 
to meet her Maker like an heretic. Come along, I’ll show you the way/ 
Madame de Gamaches whispered why Monsieur did not like Father 
Feuillet. He was a strict, uncompromising priest, to whom one could 
well apply that verse from the Psalms: ‘I will speak of thy testimonies 
also before kings, and will not be ashamed/ Once he was asked to 
lunch during Lent here at the King’s brother’s house. Monsieur took 
a little biscuit and, asked him: This is not breaking fast, is it?’ ‘Eat 
a whole ox, but be Christian,’ the priest replied. 

The girl clucked her tongue. A commotion coming from the 
Princess’s apartments brought the women to attention as they foresaw 
what might have happened. 

37 * 

The King was leaving with his doctors. The Queen followed him, 
dabbing at her nose and eyes with her handkerchief. Then came the 
Comtesse de Soissons, Mademoiselle de le Valliere, Madame de 
Montespan and Mademoiselle de Montpensier. As he passed, the King 
saw Angelique. He stopped in his tracks and oblivious to the looks that 
followed them took her into an alcove. 

‘My sister-in-law is dying/ he said. 

His face showed his grief and how upset he was, and his eyes seemed 
to be asking for consolation. 

‘Is there no hope, then, Sire? What do the doctors . . . ?’ 

‘The doctors said for hours that it was only a temporary discomfort. 
Then they all suddenly lost their heads and didn't know what to do. 1 
tired to get them into some sort of rationality. I am no doctor, but J 
could think of thirty remedies for them to try. They said all we had 
to do was wait. They're asses!’ He turned a dark look on the pointed 
hats of the practitioners huddled together in consultation. 

‘How could such a thing have happened? Madame was in excel! eru 
health. She came back from England so happy . . / 

He looked at her penetratingly without speaking and she could see 
in his eyes the terrible suspicion that lurked in his mind. She bowed 
her head, not knowing quite what to say. She would have loved to take 
his hand, but she did not dare. 

‘I would like to ask a favour of you, Angelique/ he whispered. ‘Sray 
here until . . . until the end, and then come to Versailles to consult 
with me. You will come, won’t you? I need you . . . my darling/ 

‘I will come, Sire/ 

Louis XIV heaved a great sigh. ‘Now I must go. Princes must nor 
look upon death. That’s a rule. When I myself come to die, my family 
will desert the palace and I shall be quite alone. . . . I’m glad Madame 
has that highly respected Father Feuillet with her. It’s no time now 
for the wit of courtiers and the assurances of worldly confessors. Ah, 
here comes Monsieur Bossuet. Madame will be very glad to have 

He went to meet the Bishop and talked with him a minute. Then 
the royal family departed, and Bossuet entered the bedroom of the 
dying woman. From without came the sound of coach doors slamming, 
and horses pawing the pavement. 

Angelique sat on a bench to wait Florimond was darting hither and 
thither like any other child in a tense situation that does not involve 
him. He told her that Monsieur had gone to bed and was sound asleep. 
A little before midnight Madame de la Fayette, who had been at the 


Princess's side, came to tell Angelique that Madame knew she was at 
Saint-Cloud and wished to see her. 

The room was full of people, but the presence of Bossuet and Father 
Feuillet had imposed a sort of propriety on the atmosphere. Every- 
one was talking in whispers. The two ecclesiastics moved away from 
the head of the bed to make room for Angelique. As first she thought 
it must be someone else lying there, so changed was Madame. Her un- 
fastened nightdress revealed her shrunken body, so thin that she already 
looked like the skeleton she so soon would be. Her cheekbones stuck 
out, and her nose was pinched. There were dark circles under her eyes, 
and her whole face was twisted with her agonies. 

'Madame/ whispered Angelique, 'how you must be suffering! I can't 
bear it to see you in such pain.' 

‘You are sweet to say so. Everyone else tells me I'm exaggerating my 
pain. If I were not a good Christian, I would kill myself rather than try 
to bear it.' She was breathing with difficulty, but she went on: ‘Still, it is 
good for me to suffer. Otherwise I would have nothing to offer God 
but an empty, misspent life. Madame du Plessis, I am so glad you came. 
1 have not forgotten the favour you did me and the debt I owe you. I 
brought back from England . . / 

She beckoned feebly to Montague, the English Ambassador, who 
came over to the bedside. The Princess spoke to him in English, but 
Angelique gathered that she was directing him to pay Angelique the 
three thousand pistoles she owed her. 

The Ambassador was crushed, for he knew what despair the death of 
ins beloved sister Ninette would cause his master Charles II. He pro- 
ceeded to ask the dying woman if she suspected foul play, for he had 
heard and understood the word ‘poison' which was being bandied about, 
as it was the same in both languages. Father Feuillet interrupted: 

‘Madame, you must not accuse anyone. Offer your death as a sacrifice 
to God.’ 

The Princess nodded. Her eyes closed. For a long moment she was 
silent. Angelique started to withdraw, but the icy hand of Henriette of 
England still clasped her own, and she could not pull away. Madame 
opened her eyes again, her blue eyes swimming, but she fixed them on 
Angelique with an undivided attention that was full of wisdom. 

‘The King was here/ she said. ‘With him were Madame de Soissons, 
Mademoiselle de la Valliere and Madame de Montespan . . .' 

1 know/ Angelique said. 

Madame fell silent. She kept looking at her intently. Suddenly it 
occurred to Angelique that Madame had loved the King, too. Their 


flirtation had become so serious that to avert the suspicions of the 
Queen Mother, who was still alive then, they had conceived the plan 
of making one of Madame’s ladies-in-waiting a screen for them. This 
was none other than Louise de la Valliere. Then the haughty Princess 
had been dethroned by her humble follower. Her pride would not allow 
her to mourn except in private and in the arms of her best friend, 
Madame de Montespan . . . who now had taken her place in turn. 
She had just now seen by her bedside the King and his three mistresses, 
the two former ones and the present one, in a strange recurrence of 
her dream of ambitious love that she had followed so in vain and that 
had brought her such a humiliating defeat. 

‘Yes/ Angelique said sofdy. 

She smiled a little poignantly. Madame had not had the qualifica- 
tions, but her defeat had not made her vindictive and she had always 
been gracious and extroverted and intelligent. Too intelligent. Now 
she was dying surrounded by hostility or at best indifference. 

Her eyes dimmed. In a barely audible voice she murmured: ‘ I could 
wish, for his sake, that he might fall in love with you . . . you . . . 
because . . / 

She was unable to finish the sentence. Her hand fell on the coverlet. 
Angelique withdrew and left the room to return to her bench outside. 
As she waited she forced herself to pray. About two o'clock in the 
morning Bossuet left the Princess and sat down beside her to take a 
little food. A footman brought him a cup of chocolate. 

Florimond, still darting about like a swallow, whispered to Angelique 
that the death ratde was in Madame’s throat. Bossuet set down his cup 
and returned to her bedside. 

Then Madame Gordon-Huntly emerged to shout: ‘Madame is dead!' 

As she had promised the King, Angelique immediately prepared to 
go to Versailles. She would have liked to take Florimond along, to get 
him out of the way of the funeral preparations, but she found 
him sitting on a chest in the foyer holding the hand of a nine-year- 
old girl. 

‘This is the little Mademoiselle/ he told her. TSTo one is paying any 
attention to her, so I thought I ought to keep her company. She doesn't 
realise yet that her mother is dead. When she does know, she will cry. 
I ought to stay here to comfort her/ 

Angelique gave him her blessing, and stroked his bushy hair. A good 
vassal shares the sorrow of his lord and stands by him in trouble. She 

375 N 

herself was going to her King. With tears in her eyes she kissed the 
little Princess, who as a matter of fact did not seem much disturbed 
over the loss of a mother she had hardly known and who had, paid 
her little attention. 

Other vehicles were rolling over the road to Versailles. Angelique 
ordered her coachman to pass them at full speed. When she arrived at 
the palace, it was still the dead of night. She was admitted to the 
King's conference room where he was waiting. 


‘It's all over, Sire. Madame is dead.' 

He bowed his head to conceal his feelings. 

‘Do you think she was poisoned?' he asked finally. 

Angelique made a vague gesture. 

‘Everyone thinks so,' the King went on. ‘But you have a level head. 
Tell me what you think.' 

‘Madame has long been afraid she might die of poison. She confided 
that to me.' 

‘So she was afraid. Of whom? Did she ever mention any names?’ 

‘She knew the Chevalier de Lorraine hated her and would never for- 
give her for her part in his exile.' 

‘Any others? Tell me. Tell me, please. If you don't tell me, who else 

‘Madame said that Monsieur had often threatened her when he was 
in a rage.' 

The King sighed deeply. ‘If my brother . . .' He lifted his head. ‘I 
have ordered the Steward of the Table at Saint-Cloud, Maurel, to be 
brought here. I doubt he will be long in coming. Wait, I think I hear 
him now. I should like you present at the interview. Hide behind that 

Angelique slipped behind the curtain he pointed out to her. The 
door opened and Maurel, led in by Bontemps and a Lieutenant of the 
Guard, entered. He was a coarse-featured man, not lacking in arrogance 
in spite of his professional air of servility. In spite of being under 
arrest he appeared calm. The King signalled his valet to stay. The 
Lieutenant departed. 

‘Look at me,’ said the King soberly to Maurel. ‘Your life will be 
spared if you tell me the truth.’ 

‘Sire, I will tell you the absolute truth.' 

‘Don't forget that promise. If you go back on it, torture is ready and 
waiting for you. It's up to you whether you wish to leave this palace 
alive or dead.' 


‘Sire,’ the man replied calmly, ‘after your sacred words, I would be 
a fool to lie/ 

‘Good! Now answer me. Did Madame die of poison?’ 

‘Yes, Sire/ 

‘Who poisoned her?’ 

‘The Marquis d’Effiat and 1/ 

The King flinched. ‘Who assigned you that fearful duty? And from 
whom did you get the poison?’ 

‘The Chevalier de Lorraine was the originator and prime instigator 
of the plot. He sent us from Rome the venomous drug I prepared and 
that d’Effiat put in Her Royal Highness’s drink/ 

The King’s voice suddenly fell. ‘What about my brother . . . ?’ he 
said, trying to get control of his voice. ‘Did he have any knowledge of 
this conspiracy?’ 

‘No, Sire/ 

‘Will you take your oath on that?’ 

‘Sire, I will swear before God that I was the guilty one . . . Monsieur 
did not know the plot ... we could not count on him ... he would 
have exposed us/ 

Louis XIV drew himself up. ‘That’s all I need to know. Now, go, 
wretched man. I will spare your life, but get out of my kingdom. If you 
ever cross its frontiers again, you will be a dead man/ 

Maurel left with Bontemps. The King rose and left his place behind 
his work table. 


His voice was that of a wounded man calling for aid. She ran to 
him. He pressed her so hard against his breast she thought he would 
crush her to death. She felt his forehead on her shoulder. 

‘Angelique, my angel!’ 

‘I am with you.’ 

‘What a horrible thing ! ’ he muttered. ‘What vile, treacherous minds ! ’ 

Still he did not know everything. Some day he would. He would stand 
alone in the midst of a sea of shame and unthinkable crime. 

‘Don’t leave me alone/ 

‘I am with you/ 

‘Wherever I look, I can find no one to confide in/ 

‘I am with you/ 

At last he seemed to understand. Raising her head, he gazed at her 
a long time. Then he asked her timidly: 

‘Do you mean it, Angelique? You will never leave me again?’ 



‘You will be my faithful friend? You will be mine?' 

She nodded. Gently she lifted his hand to her face. 

‘Do you really mean it?’ he repeated. ‘Oh, it’s like . . .’ 

He tried to find a word for his rapture. The dawning day was casting 
its rosy light on the edge of the draperies. 

‘Like the dawn ... a token of life, of strength . . . that is what 
you have given me on this terrible night when death has struck. Oh, 
my soul’s joy . . . you will be mine! Mine! I shall possess the 
treasure . . 

He clutched her with violent passion. She felt his strength passing 
into her, and like him believed their union would make them in- 
superable before the world. Her enemies were fleeing, the demons re- 
turning to hell. The long struggle was over and the problem solved. 
Their weary spirits were finding a sudden revivifying peace. 

Bontemps was rapping at the door. ‘Sire, it’s time.’ 

Angelique struggled to free herself, but he held her close. 

‘Sire, it’s time,’ she echoed. 

‘Yes, I must become a King again. I’m so afraid that if I let you go 
I’ll lose you again.’ 

She shook her head with a sad little smile. She was tired. The anguish 
of the night had made her eyelids droop. Her disordered hair made 
her look like an exhausted lover. 

‘I love you,’ the King said. ‘Oh, how I love you, my angel. Never leave 

After the customary celebration of the King’s rising, the courtiers as 
usual went to Mass with him. He took his place with an impassive 
face. There was stifled sobbing among the congregation. Bossuet slowly 
ascended the pulpit. In the golden light streaming through the windows 
he lifted his rugged, ruddy face, and stood erect in his black cassock 
and lace surplice. He let a long silence reign. Then his hand fell to his 
side as his booming voice rose to the high vault of the chapel. 

‘O night of disaster! O night of terror, echoing with the thunder- 
claps of this dreadful news: Madame is dead! Madame is dead! . . . 
Madame has passed from morning unto evening as a flower of the fields. 
In the morning she bloomed with all the graces you know so well. In 
the evening, drooped . . . How great is God’s diligence! In nine short 
hours, the work was done. . . . Oh, vanity of vanities . . .’ 



Anchored in the marina among the moving shallops and beside two 
small English warships, a Neapolitan felucca and a Biscay galley, the 
great vessel was swaying like a butterfly balancing on a blade of grass. 

It was a miniature frigate, equipped with small bronze cannons, on 
each of which shone the golden cock surrounded with fleur-de-lis, gar- 
lands, shells and sea gods. The ropes were of apricot and crimson silk, 
the bumpers of brocade fringed with gold and silver. From the masts 
and spars, which were painted red and blue, floated pennons in a gay 
symphony of colours, and everywhere the arms and emblems of the 
King sparkled in gold. 

Louis XIV was rendering this jewel of a ship the homage of his Court. 
One foot on the gilded gangplank, he turned towards his ladies. Who 
would be chosen to lead the procession from the meadows of Trianon? 
In his suit of peacock blue, the King looked as radiant as the cloud- 
less day. He smiled and extended his hand to Angelique. Before the 
eyes of the entire Court she ascended the gangplank and settled her- 
self under the brocaded canopy. The King sat beside her. 

After them the other guests took their places on the Grand Vessel. 
Madame de Montespan was not among them. She was presiding over 
the company assigned to the Grand Galley, an honour which did not 
deceive her and made her pale with rage. The Queen was on the 
Neapolitan felucca. The rest of the courtiers were in shallops. The 
King's musicians embarked on a barge hung with red and white damask. 

To the sound of violins and oboes the little armada glided over the 
glassy surface of the Grand Canal. The cruise seemed all too short. 
Dark clouds began to pile up in the deep blue sky. 

‘A storm is gathering , 5 Angelique remarked in an attempt to dis- 
guise her apprehension in commonplace conversation. 

‘Do you think well be shipwrecked ? 5 asked the King, looking at her 

‘Perhaps . . .’ 

The group disembarked on the green lawns where marquees had 
been set up over buffets laden with delicacies. They danced, they 
chatted, they played games. In the game of blind man's buff Angelique 
was blindfolded and whirled around by Monsieur de Saint-Aignan to 
make her lose her sense of direction. When he let her go and tiptoed 
away she felt abandoned in the stillness about her. 


‘Don’t leave me/ she cried laughing. 

She waited a moment to sense the rusding around her. Then some- 
one crept up behind her and snatched off the blindfold. 

‘Oh/ she exclaimed blinking. 

She was no longer in the meadow where the Court was playing - she 
could still hear the laughter - but on the edge of a thicket. At the top 
of a rise built of three flower-covered terraces a little palace she had 
never seen before was in the process of construction. It was made of 
white porcelain. Before it was a row of pink marble columns. Acacia 
trees surrounded it, perfuming the air with their intoxicating scent. 

‘This is Trianon/ said the King. 

He held her close to him. With his arm around her waist he led her 
up to the pagoda. 

‘We had to see this together, didn’t we,